OPINION: First-generation students have it hard

Graphic by Jade Cash.

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First-generation students — those who are the first in their family to go to college — are at a serious disadvantage compared to their peers.

According to the First Generation Foundation, 50% of college students are first-generation. Most of these students probably don’t know what resources are available to them or how to access them.

As a first-generation student, I struggled with applications, building my resume, completing the FAFSA, and organizing my schedule and credit load; my family had no experience with this and I didn’t know who to ask for help.

My family also didn’t originally expect me to go to college — graduating high school was the main goal since only one of my parents did that — so, they didn’t know how to encourage me or what to suggest for my future. Not to mention some members of my family still don’t understand that college can be just as difficult and stressful as their jobs, or that working on the Dixie Sun News technically is a job.

There are TRiO programs offered such as Student Support Services, Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search, but how many students are aware of these resources and know how to use them? The Dixie State University website is difficult to sift through when students don’t know what they’re looking for, and by the time they hear about TRiO programs at freshman orientation they’ve already struggled through the application process and it’s just one of 1 million things they hear about during the workshops.

First-generation students may also have limited social and networking opportunities given that they don’t have the benefit of being a legacy member of clubs and organizations on campus, unlike some of their peers, and may not know what to join even after club rush.

Another factor in lack of social opportunities is that first-generation students tend to come from low-income environments. They can’t get out and experience college to the fullest if they don’t have the money, which likely contributes to the reason one-quarter of low-income first-generation students leave after their first year — four times the dropout rate of higher-income second-generation students — according to the First Generation Foundation.

I can confirm that; I’ve been restricted in the past thanks to my financial struggles and carpooling situation, which makes random group projects and field trips worse than they already are, and I definitely wouldn’t be able to pay for school if I didn’t have help from the FAFSA and scholarships.

DSU could make these problems easier to deal with if it gave information about resources for first-generation students more often. It would also help if classes specified time requirements for group projects and field trips during registration. These are key issues to bring up during DSU’s strategic planning meetings or on its webpage strategicplanning.dixie.edu.

Until then, any first-generation students should talk to their advisers. Information for contacting them can be found at advisement.dixie.edu/advisors.