IPSI Spotight

First Generation College Students

‘This country has been amazing for us’: From refugee camp, to Cornell, to a Rhodes Scholarship, Ahmed arrived at Cornell new to the college experience and got a rude awakening. But he persisted.

The New York Times asked five first-generation journalism students to interview other first-generation students at their colleges about the challenges they have faced. Our GEAR UP students will enter college in Fall 2018 and I'm sure they'll love advice from those who've blazed the trail before them.

But often you're the one who's blazing the trail. In such cases, whom would you turn to when you’re first in the family to go to college? We at IPSI are working hard to ensure that our GEAR UP students will have someone to talk to when your kids go to college.

Beyond students, in GEAR UP we constantly think about their parents too. Goodwill is not just accepting your old clothes but also giving out a high school diploma. This is a great way for parents to join their kids toward a high school diploma and who know, maybe even enroll in college. As far as their kids are concerned, preferably not in the same college, I’m sure.

Getting to College

Last year, there were more than 133,000 Texas high school students enrolled in dual-credit courses, compared to about 17,800 dual-credit students in 2000, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. These students account for at least 25 percent of the total enrollment at 17 of the state’s 50 community college districts. These 25 percent are definitely going to college after high school. Make sure your kids are among them.

In fact, in Austin area, 65 percent of Class of 2016 went straight to college, a 4-percentage-point increase from 2010. This is encouraging especially given that statewide, for graduates from the quarter of schools where poverty is most highly concentrated, college readiness dropped from 42 percent to 13 percent. How to improve college readiness? Take the SAT, ACT, or TSI. And then take it again.

Research Shows...

In light of prevalent news about the student debt crises, how can you save over $20,000 on college costs? The answer is simple - Graduate on time. At four-year schools, only about 40% of full-time students graduate on time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. An additional year of school in a public four-year college will not only cost $22,826, on average but students who stay in school an additional year miss out on about $45,327 in salary, on average.

Research by Joshua Goodman et al. at the National Bureau of Economic Research [PDF] shows that access to 4-yr public colleges substantially increases degree completion rates, even for the very disadvantaged. Six years later, those who enrolled at the four-year publics are 30+ percentage points more likely to have a BA than the nearly identical students who would have enrolled in the four-year public colleges had they gotten one additional SAT question right. This has profound implication on the college fit debate. Are our implicit biases pushing students toward community college when in fact they would be better off at 4-year-colleges?

Finally, according to research conducted at Johns Hopkins University, low-income black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate from high school and consider attending college. Having at least one black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a black student's probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, the study found. For very low-income black boys, the results are even greater; their chance of dropping out fell 39 percent.

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