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Obstacles for first-generation low-income (“FGLI") students

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Obstacles for first-generation low-income (“FGLI”) students and institutional strategies to improve their success and retention. Feel free to use any of this material. These issues are complex and challenging and I want to facilitate raising awareness about them.

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Obstacles for first-generation low-income (“FGLI") students

  1. 1. Nathan T. Fried, PhD PENN-PORT IRACDA Fellow, Assistant Professor at Rutgers Camden (Fall ’18) Obstacles for first-generation low-income (“Figly”) students and institutional strategies to improve their success and retention
  2. 2. Nathan T. Fried, PhD PENN-PORT IRACDA Fellow, Assistant Professor at Rutgers Camden (Fall ’18)
  3. 3. Nathan T. Fried, PhD PENN-PORT IRACDA Fellow, Assistant Professor at Rutgers Camden (Fall ’18) What is a first-generation and/or low-income student? < ~$60-65K/yr for family of four It’s complicated
  4. 4. Neither parent earned a BS? One parent went to some college, but didn’t complete a degree. A student’s uncle went to college. What if your older brother went to college? What if it was an absentee parent who went to college? Depending on the definition, the population ranges between 22-73% (Toutkoushian, 2015) What is a first-generation student?
  5. 5. Neither parent earned a BS? One parent went to some college, but didn’t complete a degree. A student’s uncle went to college. What if your older brother went to college? What if it was an absentee parent who went to college? Depending on the definition, the population ranges between 22-73% (Toutkoushian, 2015) What is a first-generation student?
  6. 6. RUC and UPenn recognize the spectrum of first- generation issues by de-emphasizing the definition. UPenn “The FGLI program also welcomes all students who identify as first-generation for any of the multitude of ways this identity can be defined contextually.” Rutgers “Any student who may self-identify as not having prior exposure to or knowledge of an experience like Rutgers and may find having resources to assist in the transition helpful. This could be because your parents attended college in a different educational system (in the USA or in another country), because the part of your family you have close contact with did not go to college, or many other reasons.”
  7. 7. The underlying issue that FGLI students face is also complex Awareness Gap Achievement GapOpportunity Gap Social Class Transition Underrepresented Minorities, people w/ disabilities, women, LGBTQ in STEM.
  8. 8. The underlying issue that FGLI students face is also complex Imposter syndrome on campus: “I don’t belong here. It’s a fluke. Sure, I’m smart, but I’m not college-smart like they are and they’re gonna eventually find out.” Alienation at home: unsupportive or even obstructionist family and friends. Living in two worlds and not being accepted in either. “Oh look, it’s college.” “Your all fancy now.” Survivor's Guilt: negative feelings when one succeeds and escapes adverse conditions when close others have not. “Well, SOME of us weren’t lucky enough to go to college!” College readiness w/ little advice: Parents and family don’t have the knowledge to navigate college or college-level careers. “You can do whatever you set your mind to” and “Do what you love.” - Angel D’az Financial pressures: Food court closed over holiday? Need for part-time job. Sense of belonging: Professors are not from my background. Students are not from my background. Is this REALLY a place where I belong?
  9. 9. The underlying issue that FGLI students face is also complex (STEM-specific) Volunteering in a lab: “Well, if you REALLY loved science, you would commit 20 hrs working for free every week.” Science Identity: I met my first PhD (in French) when I was in 9th grade. I couldn’t see myself in that world! The first heart-to-heart with a PhD in college, she described to me how she had been reading scientific journals since she was in middle school. “I’m not cut out for this! I just learned about Scientific American in 12th grade!” Fear & Anxiety communicating w/ faculty, staff, and peers: “These professors SCARE THE HELL out of me. How am I going to make a personal connection w/ them to advance in this field!?”
  10. 10. And then you do the UNTHINKABLE, by going to grad school & a postdoc!? (PhD takes about 5-6 yrs. Postdoc takes another 5-7 yrs) Stipends are enough…for one mistake/problem: $29K in grad school, $50K in postdoc. It’s enough, but only for one unexpected problem (bad financial decision, health costs, etc) No dental insurance in many grad schools: after years of not having access to a dentist Lack of Financial Planning: No retirement/investments until well into your 30s. Imposter Syndrome: It NEVER goes away. Reimbursements take FOREVER: Students can’t fall back on family income. Is grad school financially-irresponsible?: My father is 74, mom is 64. They have no savings. Can I REALLY justify a 5-7 yr postdoc? Time is running out & it has NOTHING to do w/my passion for science. Further you go, attrition of those like you: Less & less you see people from your background. Out of the cultural-loop: Not knowing names of different famous schools…at every step, I’m one step behind.
  11. 11. Institutional strategies to improve their success and retention in STEM Money is not enough New initiatives and groups are being created at Penn and Rutgers to build community and identity
  12. 12. Nathan T. Fried, PhD PENN-PORT IRACDA Fellow, Assistant Professor at Rutgers Camden (Fall ’18)
  13. 13. Intersectionality of these issues in the context of other identities amplifies these problems.

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