Enrolling and Retaining First-Generation Students: 3 Things You Need to Know

First Generation Students: Image of a woman reading at an academic library
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As demand for college education rises among lower-income families amid a troubled economy, and as the pressure mounts on completion rates, more institutions are beginning to assess their strategies for recruiting and retaining first-gen students.

We've addressed the issue before in Higher Ed Impact, offering tips from various experts in enrollment management. This week, we wanted to pull together several disparate research findings over the past several years that, when taken together, tell a story of where some institutions may be missing opportunities to enroll, prepare, and support first-generation students more effectively.

Here are three findings to consider when developing a holistic strategy for enrolling and serving lower-income, first-generation students:

  • Boosting yield: Many admitted first-generation students don't enroll because they don't believe they will qualify for financial aid.
  • Identifying at-risk students accurately: Cognitive variables such as standardized test scores and GPA are not enough, in of themselves, to predict which students will thrive and persist; there are non-cognitive variables that you can assess to complete the picture.
  • Defining under-preparedness: Low-income first-generation students face more than just a "curriculum gap"; there are also cultural barriers that institutions can help address.

Let's take a closer look.

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