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The executive board for the We Are First club from left to right, back to front row: Dontevion Brown (treasurer), Rayshawn Smith (president), Geonavin Hernandez (social media director), Faye Solma (creative coordinator), Emily Simpson (vice president) and Cortney Rosati (secretary)

Ohio University sees record high of first generation students attending this year

Ohio University had a record amount of first generation students attending the university this year. 

Many people assume a first generation student is a student whose parents did not obtain a two-year degree or higher, however, there is more than one way to define a first generation student.

“For Fall 2018 we had 1,037 students which represented 26.3 percent of our freshmen class. Historically, those percentages were 26.3 percent for fall 2018; 25.4 percent for fall 2017; 24.5 percent for fall 2016 and 23.2 percent for fall 2015,” said Craig Cornell, senior vice provost for strategic enrollment management. “If we look at students where neither parents have a bachelor's degree, the percentage for Fall 2018 is higher, around one-third of incoming students.”

Overall, this year has had increases in students from different demographics. There was a 13.2 percent increase of underrepresented students. There was also a 7.2 percent increase in out of state students, a 39.3 percent increase of international students and 18.4 percent increase in Appalachian county students.

Chaden Djalali, executive vice president and provost, said that Ohio University works hard to make sure students from all walks of life, including those who are first-generation college students, are able to attend college and thrive. 

“I have an awesome network of supportive faculty, staff, and students here at OU who have not only helped me as a first gen students but empowered me to help and empower other first gen students,” said Faye Sloma, a senior studying communications, who is also a first generation student. 

Sloma explained how she had a really hard time fitting in and finding her way around OU when she first transferred here, and felt very alone. The OHIO First Scholars program was actually an avenue for her to feel more welcome and at home, she said.

OHIO First Scholars program, which includes specialized academic advising, tutoring, regular communication of critical information to build cultural capital. The program also includes an optional specialized living experience and awareness campaign so that students can identify with the many faculty and staff who were also first generation students, said Elizabeth Sayrs, senior vice provost of undergraduate education and student success and dean of university college. 

“Not a lot of students are even aware that they are first gen,” Sloma said. “So more funding to the OHIO First Scholars program so that they can do more outreach would be an awesome start.” 

First generation students have a lower retention and graduation rates than students who are not first generation, according to the Ohio University Board of Trustees October agenda. First generation OU students have a 75 percent retention rate compared to 83 percent of continuing generations.

“A structured mentoring program for first-year first gen students was started in 2015, and pairs a faculty or staff member who was first gen themselves (or who have a particular interest in supporting first gen) with an incoming first gen student,” Sayrs said. 

From CAP to GOWN, a college achievement program that offers help to students with academic needs,  started in 2012, and has become a mentoring program that serves up to 1,200 students across all majors and levels. The program is expected to make an increase in students within the upcoming school year. 

CAP to GOWN offers services such as free tutoring, supplemental academic and career advising, academic skills support, financial literacy and financial aid support as well as support for grad/professional school applicants. CAP to GOWN also offers mentoring by both student-faculty/staff mentoring as well as peer mentoring. 

“In Fall 2017, Ohio also partnered with Persistence Plus to create Normalizing the Transition to College for First-Generation Students, an initiative to “nudge” these at-risk students through their college experience and increase their opportunity to achieve a higher-education degree,” Sayrs said.  


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