Facing COVID 19: An assessment of First Generation College Students’ Persistence to Graduation during a Pandemic (Spring 2021 Data Collection)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill / November 2022

November 2022 Facing COVID 19 Report

On January 21, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed the nation’s first case of COVID-19. By mid-March, university officials from across the U.S. suspended face-to-face classes and moved instruction to a virtual platform. University-wide closures across the nation prompted a collaboration between researchers, college administrators and students to assess the impact of COVID-19 on First-Generation College Students (FGCS). For the purpose of this report, the team defines FGCS as an individual for whom neither parent completed a four-year bachelor degree.

What does college persistence to graduation look like for FGCS living through the COVID-19 pandemic? And how, if at all, does COVID-19 exacerbate already existing barriers?

To help answer these pressing questions, researchers from an interdisciplinary team administered surveys to FGCS during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through analysis, researchers identified the effect of the pandemic on persistence to graduation for FGCS. The team also collected open-ended responses from FGCS who provided recommendations to their universities on how to improve supports.

This report presents the combined findings from all sampled sites.