How First Generation Initiative tackles America’s growing higher education gap

| March 6, 2012 | 1 Comment

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Within the current public discourse about America’s shrinking middle class and the growing gulf between the extremely wealthy and the swelling ranks of poor, First Generation Initiative (FGI) is focused on increasing higher education graduation rate for low-income students.

Saint Mary’s FGI is one of the nation’s most comprehensive solutions for first-generation students. What makes FGI unique – compared to other programs for economically disadvantaged learners – is that the program partners with multiple middle and high schools in low-income communities to create a seamless education from middle school to high school to college.

The FGI program is based on the belief that young people who are the first in their family to attend college can shatter an intergenerational cycle of poverty because when they obtain a degree, they enter jobs comparable to — and earn salaries comparable to — other entry-level professionals.

But many students from low-income communities never make it to college. And too many under-represented students are not graduating at the same rate as their classmates. In the United States:

  • Only 51 percent of Latino college students graduate within 6 years
  • Only 40 percent of African American college students graduate within 6 years

The First Generation Initiative (FGI) of Saint Mary’s University approach is to raise graduation rates for low-income students by transferring the focus from college access to college completion.

Goal

  • 100 percent of First Generation Initiative students at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will earn a bachelor’s degree

The solution

Scholarships are given to low-income, high potential qualified students with preference given to Lasallian high schools, Cristo Rey, San Miguel and Nativity schools.

  • College Preparation – Saint Mary’s Countdown to College (C2C) program brings eighth-grade Nativity Miguel graduates from under-resourced communities to Saint Mary’s for four consecutive summers to experience life at college. Students take academic courses, stay in residence halls, eat cafeteria food, and have fun. Qualifying graduates of C2C receive preferential consideration to participate in SMU’s First Generation Scholars program.
  • College Access – Saint Mary’s is striving to provide up to 15 full scholarships per year to high school high-potential first generation students from our partner schools. The level will be maintained, starting in 2013, at 60 qualifying students. These scholarships provide full financial support for tuition, room and board, books, computers, spending money and one semester of study abroad.
  • College Support – The heart of the FGI Scholars program, unique among similar college support programs, is a full-time Literacy Specialist who teaches college-level reading and writing courses, advises, and mentors scholarship recipients. The Literacy Specialist also serves as a liaison and consultant to instructors working with students from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. The College Colleagues mentoring program partners incoming students with upper classmen, staff and faculty, arming them with a built-in support team. FGI students will receive continued support throughout college with a caring staff, dedicated space, nightly group study, academic advisors and tutors.

Why such a program

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota embraces First Generation Initiative as a moral obligation.  In addition, it is:

  • An economic imperative — the nation needs more college graduates to fill increasingly complex professional jobs.
  • A social imperative — today’s first-generation college students could be the ones who help solve chronic societal problems.

To help society tomorrow, young people from low-income communities need our support today. Saint Mary’s FGI solution is a comprehensive programs for breaking the cycle of poverty through college completion.

For more details about the First Generation Initiative program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, click here.

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Category: First Generation Initiative

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  1. David says:

    ALL OF YOU … are inspiring leaders of tomorrow.

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