Humble and Hopeful: Welcoming First-Generation Poor and Working-Class Students to College

Oldfield, 2007 / About Campus / February 2007

Study shows support for low-income

For first-generation poor and working-class college students, surviving the social challenges of higher learning can be at least as demanding as achieving a high grade point average. To increase the odds that first-generation students with low-socioeconomic status backgrounds will persist and prosper in college, it is vital that their chosen schools offer them an adequate social support system throughout their stay. These students must be helped to understand that they are entering a foreign culture, a place that can be quite forbidding. The ultimate goal should be reforming the campus culture so that it better reflects the lives of all who go there, irrespective of their socioeconomic background. In this article, the author, as a first-generation working-class college student who became a faculty member, offers his insights and recommendations after 40 years in the academy. He discusses the lessons he wishes he had learned before going to college and concludes by proposing some reforms that all colleges should enact to better meet the unique needs of their first-generation poor and working-class students.