First Generation College Student Success Day

Contact: Olivia Munoz

Supporting and celebrating the first in their family to go to college.

Willamette University proudly supports the experiences of first-generation college students. We join colleges and universities throughout the nation today in commemorating National First-Generation College Celebration.

According to the Center for First Generation Student Success:

Today, one in three undergraduates — nearly five million students — identify as first-generation.

First-gen student population will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years, as the pipeline of first-time undergraduates is heavily weighted with first-gen students.

Compared to legacy student peers, first-gen students:

  • Have fewer financial resources ($41k median parental income vs. $90k).
  • Pursue college-level education at lower rates (72% vs. 93%).
  • Attain four-year degrees at lower rates (20% vs. 49%).

Supporting – and celebrating – first-generation success has an intergenerational impact, as successful college completion is a significant predictor of education, workforce and life success for the families of graduates.

Why November 8?

This date was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965.

Much like other hallmark legislation of that era, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against communities of color and low-income folks. In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education.

Additionally, HEA ushered in federal programs at public institutions aimed at postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

First-gen students at Willamette

At Willamette, several programs are working to build better pipelines for underserved students, such as Willamette Academy, the college access program for local middle and high school students, and admissions efforts like Access 2 Excellence.

Admitted students have resources such as the pre-orientation program, Ohana, the Renjen/Deloitte Foundation Pathways program in Career Development working with underrepresented students from various backgrounds. Area-specific initiatives like the STEM scholars cohort and scholarships, mentoring, and events round out support.

First-generation students, like Willamette, are “Not Afraid to Go First.” In fact, many are working to pull as they climb, focusing not just on their own accomplishments, but on paving the way for others – siblings, cousins, community members, and future students like themselves.

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