According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Education, today nearly 50 percent of the college population are first-generation college students – students whose parents never enrolled in postsecondary education.
Roughly 24 percent of these – about 4.5 million students – are both first-generation and low-income. While it is important to recognize the significant overlap between first-generation, low-income, and students of color populations, they are not the same.
The rise in the number of first-generation students attending college is changing the face of higher education. However, first-generation students enter college with a distinct set of disadvantages, and as such are at a higher risk to drop out, take longer to complete their program, choose careers that they are familiar with or end up in employment much below their potential.
Even first-generation students with the exact same academic preparation and performance as their non-first generation peers are still less likely to experience successes in college.