First-Generation College Students Face Big Obstacles – Which is Why They Need Our Support

“First-generation college student.” These are words that make family members puff up with pride. They made it – both as an individual and as a family. There’s a lot of pressure on these students. A lot of hopes and dreams are riding on them, and not just their own.

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Sadly, first-generation college students are the hardest hit financially – many of their family members didn’t even graduate from high school. Even though their family may be proud of them, without going through the college experience, it’s difficult to understand the pressures and the challenges they face. These students often don’t have the emotional or the economic support systems that students from homes with higher incomes enjoy. The student’s dream of education may not seem important to some family members – or it may be seen as just that, a dream. These students are fighting both their culture and their finances in order to attend college.

In the “Hidden Costs of College” report, underwritten by Charles Schwab, almost half of our survey respondents (42%) were first-generation college students. Of that group, 64% are Hispanic or Latino. 73% of Hispanic students related that their financial standing impacted their college choice more than other minorities. And over 60% of both Hispanic and African American students who attended college did so for just two years or less. Over half of these students dropped out because they could just no longer afford college.

It’s not about grades or juggling a social life and work – it’s about cold, hard cash for college expenses.

In today’s college world, the extra-curriculars matter. Unpaid internships. Study abroad. Membership in campus organizations. All these add up, in many fields, to a lucrative job post-graduation.

But only 15% of first-generation students can afford these activities, even though over three-quarters of them understand how critical they are.

Katiyanna is a high school junior. She received a micro-grant from the 1,000 Dreams Fund to go on college visits in 2017. These visits were critical to her college selection process, giving her the knowledge she needed to choose the right school for her. “Most of my family didn’t graduate high school or college, so no one can really provide me with the funds I need to visit different cities to look at schools.”

If you’d like to know more about Katiyanna and the other young women who we help to pursue their dreams of college and a better life, please visit our Project Girls on the Rise web page. If you’d like to become one of our funders, go HERE. First-generation graduates lead to second- and third-generation graduates. A small amount of help can have a multi-generational impact.

Christie Garton, Founder & CEO of the 1,000 Dreams Fund