First-Generation Students Hold Key To State’s Future
Career College Central summary:
On the sprawling urban campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Zebulun Davenport has one of the more difficult jobs. A vice chancellor, he is tasked with putting together all the pieces needed to keep a diverse body of students in school long enough to graduate.
Based on history, most won’t. Less than 15 percent of IUPUI’s undergraduates earn a degree in four years; less than 40 percent will get one in six. All of Indiana’s public colleges and universities have lower than desired graduation rates, though IUPUI faces some special challenges.
Many of its students are working to support themselves or family while attending college. And about 45 percent of IUPUI students fall in the category of “first generation” — the children of parents who never went to college or never finished.
It’s that first-generation demographic that may hold the key to Indiana’s future. A recent report by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation found Indiana was in the bottom tier of states whose residents hold college degrees. That puts the state at a distinct disadvantage for attracting the high-skill, high-wage jobs needed to boost the state’s per capita income, which has been stagnant for a decade.
Echoing the findings of the Lumina report — titled “A Stronger Nation through Higher Education” — community involvement appears to be a key to success. It takes churches and community groups, neighbors and family to support and encourage students to see their goal through to the end. That support can come in the form of scholarships and financial aid to offset rising student debt loads, but it needn’t be that lavish. A roundtrip bus ticket for a weekend at home; $10 for a Sunday night dinner with friends; or even a simple phone call can mean a lot to a lonely student.
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