First-generation college students struggle to succeed in college. It's a problem here, but it's a problem everywhere. Some stories from Tennessee institutions. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a first generation student. Taken from The Atlantic.
First-Generation College-Goers: Unprepared and Behind
When Nijay Williams entered college last fall as a first-generation student and Jamaican immigrant, he was—despite being admitted to the school—academically unprepared for the rigors of higher education. Like many first-generation students, he enrolled in a medium-sized state university many of his high school peers were also attending, received a Pell grant, and took out some small federal loans to cover other costs. Given the high price of room and board and the proximity of the school to his family, he opted to live at home and worked between 30 and 40 hours a week while taking a full class schedule.
What Nijay didn’t realize about his school—Tennessee State University—was its frighteningly low graduation rate: a mere 29 percent for its first-generation students. At the end of his first year, Nijay lost his Pell Grant of over $5,000 after narrowly missing the 2.0 GPA cut-off, making it impossible for him to continue paying for school. . . .
"[Many students] are coming from a situation where no one around them has the experience of successfully completing higher ed, so they’re coming in questioning themselves and [their] college worthiness," Jarrat continued. That helps explain why, as I’m First’s Rubinoff indicated, the schools to which these students end up resorting can end up being some of the poorest matches for them. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville offers one example of this dilemma. A flagship university in the South, the school graduates just 16 percent of its first-generation students, despite its overall graduation rate of 71 percent. Located only a few hours apart, The University of Tennessee and Tennessee State are worth comparing. Tennessee State’s overall graduation rate is a meager 39 percent, but at least it has a smaller gap between the outcomes for first-generation students and those of their peers.