Graduation rate low for family firsts

Derek Lenehan

First-generation college students are significantly less likely to graduate than other students, according to data from the office of Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

According to the 2003 Cooperative, Institutional Research Program, a survey RPIE gives every five years to the incoming freshman class, 1,123 incoming freshmen were first-generation students, and represented 44 percent of the class. After one year, the first-generation students had a retention rate of 69 percent, while other students had a retention rate of 75 percent.

First-generation students, as a group, lost 345 freshmen between Fall 2003 and 2004. The rest of the students lost 348, comparatively similar to the first-generation students, however, the group began the year with 286 more students.

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, speculated that the difference could be caused by the parents of first-generation students, having never been to college, not having a knowledge of the financial aid process.

Anissa Strickland, associate director of Financial Aid, held a similar view.

“I think it’s the unknown, if nobody did it before you … unless you’ve got somebody that can share a personal experience with them, it’s intimidating,” she said.

Goldsmith said the university is aware of the difference and is doing several things to assist first-generation students, such as the Roots and Wings program in the summer. Roots and Wings is meant to “aid parents in understanding the transition their son/daughter may experience when he or she goes to college,” according to the Kent State Web site.

The university also is beginning to send staff members into middle schools to get students to begin thinking about higher education earlier, Goldsmith said.

“We’re trying to get kids excited about going to college,” he said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Derek Lenehan at [email protected]