2021: The Year in #AdvocateFirstgen

The Center / December 07, 2021


As 2021 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on advocacy efforts that benefited first-generation college students over the past year. These actions have taken a variety of forms and ranged from national to institution-specific activities. 

At the federal level, the Build Back Better Act provides increased financial assistance. Eligible first-generation college students will receive increased Pell grants with a maximum award of $6,495. While advocacy efforts focused on doubling Pell grants, the latest increase, along with an earlier increase in the appropriations bill, provides a 15% increase in these funds. While other major proposals like free community college did not survive negotiations for higher education funding, future opportunities to revive such funding may exist. 

Reflecting on recent advocacy efforts can provide reminders of successes as well as areas for continued work. 

Several states passed legislation with the potential to benefit first-generation students in admissions practices. The Colorado General Assembly passed HB21-1173, which prohibits a governing board of a state-supported higher institution from considering legacy and family relationships to the institution’s alumni when making decisions in the admissions process. Illinois House Bill 226 created the Higher Education Fair Admissions Act, which prohibits Illinois public universities from solely relying on ACT or SAT scores to make admissions decisions. Eliminating testing requirements can raise the number of low-income, underrepresented racial and ethnic minority, and first-generation students at institutions without affecting graduation rates according to research by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). 

News outlets widely reported that the lingering challenges from COVID-19 added to the stress and anxiety of college students and that students of color and first-generation students were disproportionately affected. Over the past year, many practitioners advocated to their administrations for increased funding for expanded mental health services to assist first-generation and other students as they continued to navigate challenges related to the pandemic.

These results highlight the importance of advocacy efforts on behalf of first-generation students. Reflecting on recent advocacy efforts can provide reminders of successes as well as areas for continued work. It can also help you to focus your #AdvocateFirstgen efforts in the coming year.


Consider the following questions:

What strategies have helped you to champion first-generation students successfully? Share your perspective on first-generation student advocacy and pertinent policy issues across social media with #AdvocateFirstgen.