MEJO 121 Story
Being the First
Inside the experiences and challenges of First-Gens at UNC
Who are first-generation college students?
At UNC-Chapel Hill, 20% of the undergraduate population are first-generation college students (abbreviation: FGCS). While the technical definition of ‘first-generation’ varies according to the institution, UNC defines first-generation as a student whose parents or guardians do not have a bachelor’s degree.
Studies have shown that many first-generation students often start out at a two-year college before transferring to a four-year university to earn their Bachelor’s degree. According to the Aspen Institute, other trends among FGCS include a large percentage of students from low-income families; to be specific, 75% of first-gen students in a US Department of Education study had a household income less than $50,000 and these students usually qualify for financial aid. Among these families there are many racially and ethnically diverse students, especially African American and Latinx students. Immigration trends in the US have contributed to this high percentage of first-generation students who identify as Latinx, the largest growing minority group in the US. FGCS also are less likely to be retained and complete their degree upon entering college, as 47% of FGCS have some college, while only 20% earn their bachelor’s degree, and 13% earn an associate’s degree. This compares to 42% of non-FGCS who earn their bachelor’s degree.
What are the challenges faced by first-generation students?