An Assessment of Support Systems for First-Generation Students at a Minority Serving

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type




Second Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


Although the population of first-generation college students is on the rise, challenges persist in terms of access to higher education and the social barriers these students encounter after enrolling. Previous research has shown that first-generation students regularly face challenges such as navigating the college system, financial struggles, and cultural misunderstandings. This research builds on previous research by evaluating the first-generation program at a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) in Southern California and focuses on the extent to which this college includes in its program: a sense of belonging, community building, achievement, family influence, and mental health. The question this study raises is “how does a first-generation program at an MSI impact the experiences of a first-generation college student?” Institutional data on first-generation enrollment and in-person interviews were conducted with seven participants: one administrator involved with the first-generation community, and six first-generation students from various socioeconomic and racial backgrounds to explore the effectiveness with which the community has supported these students and also the challenges students faced in accessing and benefiting from the resources provided. The importance of this research is to increase access, achievement, and graduation rates for first-generation students in order to advance social mobility. The findings of this research suggest, overall, that the first-generation program at this MSI negatively impacts the academic and social experiences of a first-generation student. The primary focus to improve should be building a sense of community and strengthening academic support (building a strength of community). Overall, this research encourages colleges to better support the success of first-generation students by providing targeted resources and mentorship to help reduce the discrepancy in educational attainment.

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