Students who are the first in their family to pursue higher education or come from a low-income household continue to be severely underrepresented on college campuses, despite high educational aspirations.
A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences found that first-generation college students are more likely to have lower grades in high school, have given no thought to taking a college-entrance exam, and wait longer after high school to enroll in college. While over 80 percent have expectations for college in the 10th grade, only 20 percent earn a bachelor's degree by the time they're 25.
New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is working to change this trend and has been recognized in nonprofit Strive for College’s 2018 I’m First! Guide to College, a comprehensive college guidebook designed to help low-income, first-generation students make college a reality. The university is among the edition’s 168 higher education institutions highlighted for their outreach efforts, financial aid opportunities and student support services.
“Higher education is an investment, especially for families from lower income brackets, and The New York Times reported that NJIT leads the nation in terms of the upward economic mobility it provides to students from low-income families,” said Joel S. Bloom, president of NJIT. “Our students know that an NJIT degree is affordable and is a catalyst for career success. Our students have multiple job offers by graduation and starting salaries almost 20 percent above the national average.”
NJIT’s support of first-generation college students, and other traditionally underserved students, is ongoing through a series of programs. Among them are:
• The NJIT Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program, which assists low-income and first-generation or underrepresented STEM students in completing their bachelor’s degree and enrolling in post-baccalaureate degree programs toward ultimately obtaining doctoral degrees.
• The Educational Opportunity Program at NJIT, which offers academic support along with career and personal counseling to first-time full-time freshman and transfers students who may be educationally and economically challenged.
• The Center for Pre-College Programs, which increases access to college and provides opportunities for success in STEM fields for first-generation students even before they begin their post-secondary education.
• First Fellows, which provides support and peer mentoring to students who are the first in their families to attend an institution of higher education.
First-generation students at NJIT are indeed thriving and realizing their educational goals and objectives. One student, for example, will earn her bachelor’s degree this year after overcoming personal difficulties. Another relied primarily on her own resolve to apply to NJIT and is now a freshman at the university studying biomedical engineering.
To learn more about the 2018 I’m First! Guide to College, which includes articles and advice from experts and college students, an interactive college-planning curriculum for students and their teachers and counselors, and valuable information for parents and mentors, visit http://store.imfirst.org or www.striveforcollege.org.