Giving Compass' Take:

• Aaron Cantú explains how colleges are trying to tackle the challenges first-generation students face by enlisting their parents for help. 

• How can funders help to build understanding around the best practices for supporting first-generation students? 

• Learn more about efforts to help first-generation students succeed. 

Students who are first in their families to attend college contend with unique challenges. They are more likely to come from poor-performing high schools, low-income backgrounds and households where English isn’t spoken. And without the benefit of parents’ college-going experience, they have fewer tools to navigate college bureaucracies and day-to-day campus life. These factors combine to depress first-generation student graduation rates, say higher education experts. According to one study, a third of first-generation college students drop outwithin three years.

In recent years, colleges have been trying to slow that exodus by creating offices devoted to first-generation students, organizing peer groups and connecting students with tutoring and extra support. Now some institutions are coming to realize that programming for first-generation students isn’t enough to get them across the finish line — they also need to target their parents. Gear Up, which has long supported low-income families with college prep and applications, recently extended its model through the first year of college. And a handful of colleges and universities are designing outreach efforts for parents of first-generation students, and finding new ways to engage them in campus events.

“It’s necessary for us as institutions to engage those parents and families of first-generation students and help them understand the college process, so they can also be supportive in that way,” said Amy Baldwin, who oversees the Department of Student Transitions at the University of Central Arkansas and is an adviser to the Center for First-Generation Student Success. She said that more institutions may try to find ways to include parents and families in their children’s higher education in the coming years.

Read the full article about helping first-generation students succeed by Aaron Cantú at The Hechinger Report.