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Ainsley Schuler February 7, 2018

By Kennedy Hilsabeck, Abi Reutter, and Grace Stalzer

If you are a first-generation student (FGS) who is from a low-income family or lacking a knowledge of the resources available to you, the thought of finishing college may seem down-right insurmountable.

Being a low income and first generation student go together quite often. According to the Pell Institute, about one-quarter of low-income first-generation college students do not finish their first year, and at the six-year mark, 43% of students who fall in those categories still hadn’t finished their degree. We have seen this here at DMACC, one day you have a student sitting next to you in class, and the next day they’re gone and you learned that they couldn’t afford their schooling.

Students who are family oriented and the first to go to college may feel guilty for leaving their family behind while they’re away at college. Janice Wiggins has been a director of the Indiana University-Bloomington’s (IUB) Groups Program. This is one of many programs that helps with the emotional barrier for FGS, low-income, and disabled students. Wiggins had a student write in her admission essay that, “It’s hard to stay positive in school when you know your parents could lose their job or home and you feel you are being selfish in neglecting family responsibility to pursue an education.” The emotional barrier is an obstacle for all to overcome but can be particularly hard for some who don’t have the background support because their parents didn’t go to college and don’t understand the issues they face.

Being a FGS is one problem, but being from a low-income family brings with it another set of problems. Brian Payne, a faculty member at Old Dominion University, was a FGS and says “I attribute my occasional bouts with impostor syndrome to my first-generation status. Feelings of

isolation at academic conferences remind me of the isolation I experienced as a first-year student.” He started a support group for FGS, and he and other faculty use their past experiences to mentor students and provide them with the support they need to stay in school.

On the Boone campus, we have a great resource right under our noses. Erin Neumann, the Coordinator of Student and Community Resources, has an office down the hall from the Courter Center in room 170, and she’s the one you go to when you have financial questions or other concerns. Erin said she can help “… first-generation college students, and economically disadvantaged individuals who could benefit from extra support while preparing for or attending college. Services include academic advising, financial aid/FAFSA assistance, connections to supportive community resources, and child care or transportation assistance for qualifying individuals.” On the academic side of things, DMACC has a list of academic advisors who are here to help with scheduling classes or anything else you may have questions on concerning your schooling – Jocelyn Kovarik, Jeanne Duffy, Jeff Kelly, Patty Harrison, and Shelby Hildreth. We believe these advisors play an instrumental role with students who need help figuring out how to navigate college.

We suggest you reach out and talk to other students around you because they might be dealing with the same problems you are. If you are struggling, feeling emotionally drained or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help!