Advancing Opportunity for First-Generation College Students

with Maureen Hoyler of the Council for Opportunity in Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 30% of all freshmen are considered first-generation college students.

Maureen Hoyler, President of the Council for Opportunity in Education, details programs and resources available to ensure first-generation students achieve college success.

Posted on:

Nov 04, 2019

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: One in three college students nationwide are first generation. These are students whose parents did not earn college degrees. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Research shows that lower income levels and lack of family understanding can deter some students from pursuing and completing a college education. Maureen Hoyler is the president of the Council for Opportunity and Education] and she joins me to discuss pathways to a college degree. Maureen, thank you so much for being here.

Hoyler: It's great to be here. Thank you.

Anderson: So your organization is part of something known as a TRIO program. For people who don't know what that is, explain for us.

Hoyler: Well, nationally, many colleges and many community agencies, like the Boys and Girls Club or the Y, sponsor programs to help families prepare their children for college, learn about financial aid, learn about the courses they need to take. And then once they get to college, they want to make sure that they stay in college and graduate, that it's a good investment. So both colleges and agencies are committed to this, to providing upward mobility through education. The American Dream. So going back to the 1960s, the federal government has provided funding under the federal TRIO programs. One of the federal TRIO programs that many people have heard about is Upward Bound. That helps students prepare for college and then stay in college when they get there. Now we don't provide financial aid, but we address the non-financial barriers to college entrance and success. Those can include lack of information. People don't know how to apply. They don't know how to get enough aid. They don't know what courses to take. They don't know what courses to take in high school so they're going to be successful in college. Anderson: So you're shepherding people all through those steps so that they can be successful on the back end. I want you to explain to us who are some of these young people, who are some of these students that you are assisting? I mean, what's the profile?

Hoyler: So it's a fantastic group of people because, generally speaking, these are very motivated young people and adults. There are often adults that want to go back to school, get some training so they can get a different job, provide better support for their families, so we have to have one program that specifically focuses on adults. But if you take them, they're in every county in the country, they're both rural and urban. They are white students, black students, Latino students. So they can be of any age from 10 to in their 40s or 50s. So those are our students.

Anderson: So there is one sort of factor that I think is really interesting. It says that students from families in the top income quartile are almost five times as likely to graduate from a 4-year college by the time they're 24 as students from families in the bottom quartile. And that really zeroes in, I think, on why some of the work that you're doing is so relevant. And out of the work you're doing, you have some pretty incredible success stories. [

Hoyler: When you think about it, oftentimes, the kinds of mistakes that first-generation students make when they go to college that makes it harder for them to get a college degree, they may work too much. They may work so much that it interferes with their classes because they don't want to be a burden to their family. We're able to step in and say, "Hey, you're gonna be able to help your family more if you concentrate on your studies now and don't try to work 40 hours a week."

Anderson: And very quickly, I want you to share with us one of these success stories. Viola Davis. Hoyler: Viola Davis and her sisters actually were students in both our pre-college Upper Bound program and our college retention program -- student support services -- at Rhode Island College.

Anderson: Wow. Hoyler: Viola took her first acting class in Upward Bound. She said it was the first time that she felt worthy to be a performer. It's really an amazing story.

Anderson: It's incredible. And it really is a testimony to the work that you and others are doing in this space. Maureen Hoyler, thank you for sharing with us.

Hoyler: Thank you.

Anderson: And thank you as well for watching. For more great conversations from leaders in your community and across the nation,] visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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