#AdvocateFirstgen Through Your Institutional Budgeting Process

The Center / January 11, 2022

Many institutions begin the process of reviewing budgets for the upcoming fiscal year at this time. Uncertainty regarding fall enrollment numbers, additional costs due to ongoing COVID-19 protocol management, and ongoing concerns about federal and state investments continue and will weigh on leadership as budgetary decisions are finalized over the next few months. How can you #AdvocateFirstgen by leveraging the budgeting process to continue, or even expand, programs and support for first-generation students?

Know your numbers

The impact of the pandemic on first-generation students has been reported by a variety of researchers and sources. Along with loss of jobs, challenges with transportation, and the need for increased access to mental health services, the enrollment numbers of first-generation students declined over the last year. However, not all institutions experienced enrollment declines and different institutional types’ enrollment trends differed. 

Being equipped with the appropriate data...enables program directors and other administrators to advocate for continued investment in first-generation student success. 

Most administrators and staff are aware of their institution’s overall enrollment status, and understanding where first-generation students fit in this narrative is important. Disaggregating the data by first-generation status in conjunction with a variety of other data points (e.g. progress to graduation status, other intersectional identities) can provide valuable insights and patterns. 

An additional layer of analysis is identifying the status of participants in specific first-generation student programs, scholarships, and/or other services and review how they fare in persistence, credit accumulation, and similar measures compared with first-generation students who may not have the benefit of these services.

Think about ROI

Return on investment (ROI) is a financial metric for measuring the performance of a particular investment. In the business world, it is used to assess the profitability of an investment in relation to its costs. In the higher education sector, this type of analysis has been used to compare degree programs at different institutions to determine those that offer students the greatest opportunity to recoup their costs.

At the institutional level, a return on investment analysis calculates the costs associated with first-generation programming and the return realized by the number of participants retained and the associated revenue derived from their retention. These numbers can be powerful indicators of the program’s success and the value they bring both to participants and to institutional operations. Highlighting this information in budget narratives or conversations about program funding is an effective way to justify funding requests. 

At first glance, most of us would not equate advocating on behalf of first-generation students with analyzing student data and calculating return on investment. Being equipped with the appropriate data and associated financial value the investment in programming brings to the institution enables program directors and other administrators to advocate for continued investment in first-generation student success. 

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.