What is a first-generation college student? The University of Toledo is hosting an event for those whose parents or legal guardians have not completed a bachelor’s degree. These first-gen students, and their siblings, will be the first in their families to graduate from college.
First Gen Day: First 2 Launch @ UT Day will be held Nov. 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Ottawa East and Carlson Library. Open to all students, the TRIO Student Support Services program is celebrating First Generation Day on the anniversary of the day the Higher Education Act was signed into law in 1965.
“It’s important for first-gen to know about resources on campus because they don’t really have anyone to ask, and a lot of them are afraid to admit that they could use some additional help or advice or support,” said Robin Stone, director of TRIO Student Support Services.
At the event, students are invited to drop in to learn more about resources for first-gen students and meet other first-gen college students, faculty and staff from around the university.
TRIO SS is associated with the Council for Opportunity in Education, which invited UT to help them celebrate first-generation students. Events like these are celebrated at different schools during different times of the year, but COE believed Nov. 8 is perfect to celebrate the shared history of first-gen students and the Higher Education Act, according to Stone.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the act as a part of The Great Society, a set of domestic programs designed to eliminate poverty and racial injustice.
“He worked with poor children before he was in politics. So he always remembered that, these poor children,” Stone said. “And when he became a president, the thing about the war on poverty was more on that. It was making sure the cycle of poverty ends and it can only really end with education… education can also increase social class and economic opportunity.”
The higher education act also started into motion initiatives for the Pell Grant, the Direct Loan program, work study, and the TRIO program. Stone says that these programs are still crucial to first-generation students on campus.
“...we know that despite the almost 40 years of these programs being on [college] campus[es], first-gen students are still struggling with lower graduation rates compared to their more affluent peers and their peers with a history of higher education,” she said.
When Stone received this message back in June 2017, she asked if there was a centralized office that would be in charge of this. She couldn’t find one initially, so Stone took it on with the help of the TRIO office, who often works with first-generation students.
From there, she recruited the help of others. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, as well as Patricia Case, department chair and associate professor of sociology, are those who are also involved in this year’s event.
Case oversees the development of the First in the Family Center on UT's campus. She has been consulting with TRIO for this event.
“I hope that what it does is provide a good resource for students,” Case said. “We have resources out there for students that are first in the family, who have different challenges to getting a college education than people who have an experience of higher education within their family context.”
Stone said she hopes this event helps first-gen students realize that “you belong here.”
An edit was made to this article on 11/1/17. The TRIO program has been around for 40 years, not four as orginally stated.