Augustana College will celebrate National First Generation College Student Day on Monday, Nov. 8. First-Gen Day celebrates students who will be the first generation in their family to graduate from college.
The college currently has about 450 first-generation students enrolled, making up nearly 1/5th of the student population.
First-Gen Day was created by NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) to draw awareness to the unique issues faced by first generation students and the overwhelming benefit of welcoming first-gen students to college campuses.
“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Wendy Hilton-Morrow, Augustana provost and graduate, said in a Thursday release. “It was difficult to navigate this path when my family had not themselves taken it.”
Dr. Hilton-Morrow’s difficulties are not unusual to the life of a first-gen student. The Postsecondary National Policy Institute reports that first-generation students showed less college readiness than their non-first generation peers putting them at an increased risk of failing out of college.
In a 2014 study, the U.S. Department of Education reported that fewer first-generation students sought academic support services than continuing-generation students and a lower percentage made use of academic advising services.
“Augustana has a number of deliberate and intentional support services in place to serve all students,” said Hilton-Morrow, “but so many of the services are especially critical to the support and retention of first-gen students.”
Augustana proactively supports new students through multiple peer mentoring programs and a course taught by students’ faculty advisor to help them successfully transition to college life, its release said. If students experience challenges, academic or otherwise, faculty and other community members share their concerns to enable the many support services from Career and Professional Development to Tutoring and Academic Coaching to connect with the student and offer services and resources to support student success.
Colleges celebrate annually on November 8th to honor the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created special federal grant and loan programs as well as the Federal TRIO programs.
Augustana received a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Education in 2020 to launch a TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO-SSS) program on campus. That program aims to remove the steep barriers to education that first-generation students face. TRIO-SSS serves a variety of students including first-gen, low income, and students with disabilities.
Augustana’s TRIO-SSS program currently has 137 students enrolled.
The college will be hosting various events across campus on Monday to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the impact first-gen students, graduates, faculty, and staff have on Augustana.