Giving Compass' Take:

• According to a 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, first-generation college students are less likely to have a mentor that is a college professor compared to their peers who have parents that earned bachelor's degrees. 

• This is only one example of how colleges and universities are not sufficiently supporting their first-generation college students. Higher education can play a more significant role in offering services and creating targeted mentorship programs for this population. 

• Read about an organization that helps first-generation college students figure out their career path after graduating. 

First-generation college students are less likely than their peers whose parents graduated from college to have a mentor who is a college professor.

It’s a finding that got less attention than it deserved following the recent 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, which reports on new college graduates’ experiences with mentors during their time as students.

Higher-education leaders need to take steps to better support their first-generation learners. While the mentoring gap is modest — 61 percent of first-generation students’ mentors, compared with 66 percent of continuing-generation or “college-experienced” students’ — it is symptomatic of the ways that higher-education institutions are failing first-generation students.

The accepted lexicon for discussing college students is “traditional,” meaning those who attend college full time right out of high school, and “non-traditional,” meaning those who attend when they’re older than 24, have a family, work, are financially independent from their parents or have been in the military.

The problem, though, is that higher-education institutions haven’t quite caught up with the changing demographics of their student bodies, and it shows: only about half of first-generation college students earn bachelor’s degrees within six years of enrolling, compared to 64.2 percent of their college-experienced peers.

When you dig a little, that gap is hardly surprising: only 58 percent of schools report offering any targeted support services for “non-traditional” students.

It’s not hard to guess what might drive the gap: first-generation students didn’t hear stories growing up about their parents chatting in a professor’s office after hours. They may not realize that seeking one-on-one relationships is encouraged and beneficial.

Schools need to acknowledge the reality of their “post-traditional” student bodies — and adjust.

Read the full article about first-generation college students by Andrew Geant at The Hechinger Report