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STATE & NATIONAL COMPLETION EFFORTS

Achieving The Dream

Complete College America

Gates Foundation

Drive to 55

 

Helping First Generation Students See Themselves as Graduates

Multiple studies have shown first-generation college students, especially those from lower-income households, struggle compared to their peers who have had at least one parent complete a bachelor’s degree.[i] [ii] [iii] At Roane State Community College, more than half of our students are considered first-generation and are Pell-Award (a federal aid program for low-income students and families) eligible. As part of the Title III grant, Roane State implemented an in an intervention designed to show these students that they can beat the odds and successfully complete a degree.

The intervention, determined to have at least moderate effectiveness by the What Works Clearing House, involved recruiting recent graduates from Roane State to talk with incoming Freshmen at orientation about the obstacles they faced both academically and socially, and how they overcame challenges on their path to a degree. While we were not able to invite recent graduates to speak at every orientation, we were able to hold these discussions at three of our new student orientations and one of our adult student orientations. In total, 422 students were able to engage in a conversation with recent Roane State degree awardees.

Post-discussion surveys indicated:

  • More than 90% of the students enjoyed hearing from other Roane State students and learned from the experience
  • Nearly 90% would recommend the discussion to other students
  • Nearly 80% felt better prepared for college after the discussion

The discursive portions of the survey also showed that the three most important lessons students derived from the recent graduates were:

  1. Study!
  2. Relationships and communication with their peers and faculty is critical
  3. Get involved with the Roane State community

As a discussion moderator at one of the new student orientation, I can personally attest to how positive of an experience this was for new students. I able to see in the faces of the audience a true sense of identification between the recent graduates and the incoming freshmen. Faces lit-up as the recent graduates talked about juggling school and work, the pride of their parents in them attending school, and overcoming a less than perfect academic past.

There was something truly powerful for these students to see someone like themselves achieve what they hope for their own futures. It should be heartening to know, especially on this the first day of a new semester, that many our incoming students, even our first-generations, have models for academic success.

 

[i] https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/how-to-help-first-generation-students-succeed/473502/

[ii] Housel, T. H., & Harvey, V. L. (2009). The invisibility factor: Administrators and faculty reach out to first-generation college students. Boca Raton, FL: Brown Walker Press.

[iii] Johnson, S. E., Richeson, J. A., & Finkel, E. J. (2011). Middle class and marginal? Socioeconomic status, stigma, and selfregulation at an elite university. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 838–852

 

Contact: Jeffrey J Tinley • (865) 354-3000 ext. 4816 • tinleyjj@roanestate.edu

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