National Data Fact Sheets on First-generation College Students

These fact sheets provide national statistics about the background characteristics, postsecondary experiences, and outcomes of first-generation and continuing-generation college students in the United States. Detailed information on data collection methods is included with each fact sheet. Scholars and practitioners are encouraged to use these fact sheets to compare national statistics about first-generation students to statistics about first-generation students at their own institution. These fact sheets also provide useful insight to advance research and scholarship specific to first-generation students.

When considering how the statistics in these fact sheets may relate to the students at your institution, please read the footnotes for important information, including definitions of key terms, the data source, and the type of student population that is represented on each sheet. The average profile of students at your institution may be very different from the national samples of undergraduates and first-time college students used for these fact sheets. Some statistics are shown separately by type of institution.

Note that while the Center recognizes the diversity of definitions represented by the term “first-generation college student,” in these fact sheets, first-generation college student is defined as an undergraduate whose parents do not have a bachelor’s degree.

These fact sheets were produced for the Center by RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute. Accompanying each fact sheet is the respective suggested citation.</p

Fact Sheet 1: Demographic Characteristics and Postsecondary Enrollment

Fact sheet 1 displays general demographic and enrollment characteristics of first-generation and continuing-generation college students.
The statistics are based on data from the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which represents the national population of undergraduates who were enrolled in Title IV postsecondary institutions in academic year 2015-16. The number of study members is 89,000.

 

Fact Sheet 1

 

Highlight: As of academic year 2015-16, 56% of undergraduates nationally were first-generation college students (neither parent had a bachelor’s degree), and 59% of these students were also the first sibling in their family to go to college.

Fact Sheet 1

 

 

Suggested Citation: RTI International. (2019). First-generation College Students: Demographic Characteristics and Postsecondary Enrollment. Washington, DC: NASPA. Retrieved from https://firstgen.naspa.org/files/dmfile/FactSheet-01.pdf

Fact Sheet 2: First Year Experience, Persistence, and Attainment

Fact sheet 2 provides statistics about the first-year enrollment and coursework of first-generation and continuing-generation college students, as well as about their persistence, departure, attainment, and percentage of attempted credits completed. The data are from the longitudinal 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study and represent the population of undergraduates who entered postsecondary education for the first time in academic year 2003-04. The number of study respondents is 19,000.

 

 

Highlight: Six years after first entering postsecondary education, 56% of first-generation college students and 40% of continuing-generation students had not earned any postsecondary credential.

Fact Sheet 2

 

 

Suggested Citation: RTI International. (2019). First Year Experience, Persistence, and Attainment of First-generation College Students. Washington, DC: NASPA. Retrieved from https://firstgen.naspa.org/files/dmfile/FactSheet-02.pdf

Statistics

Statistics

24 percent of parents had no postsecondary education_Stat

24 percent of first-generation college students had parents with no postsecondary education.
Center for First-generation Student Success

Statistics

28 and 16 percent were over 30_Stats

28 percent of first-generation and 16 percent continuing-generation students were age 30 or above.
Center for First-generation Student Success

Statistics

55 and 72 percent academic advising_ stat

55 percent of first-generation and 72 percent of continuing-generation students made use of academic advising services.
Center for First-generation Student Success

Statistics

66 percent student employees_ stat

66 percent of first-generation students were employed.
Center for First-generation Student Success

Statistics

65 and 75 percent enrolled full-time_ stat

65 percent of first-generation and 75 percent of continuing-generation students were enrolled full-time.
Center for First-generation Student Success