18 Memorable First Generation College Student Statistics [2023] (2023)

The first generation college student statistics you’ll find below point out a complex issue. Namely, a significant part of the student population will start college this year at a severe disadvantage — their parents didn’t go to college.

The parents’ lack of higher education can cause many problems. First, they won’t be able to share valuable college advice with their children. Also, the parents who have a high school degree or less are more likely to struggle with finances.

Read on to find out what challenges first generation college students face and how they cope with them.

Key Statistics on First Generation College Students (Editor’s Choice)

  • First generation students comprise a third of all college students.
  • 20% of Harvard University freshmen are first generation college students.
  • The median household income of a first generation college graduate is $99,600.
  • 21% of Black first generation college students graduate.
  • 91% of first generation students are sure attending college was the right call.
  • 28% of colleges hold data on first generation students.
  • 17% of first generation students attend a nonprofit private college.
  • 21% of Gen Z students are first generation college attendees.

Recent First Generation College Student Facts

1. 26% of first generation college students have a bachelor’s degree.

(Pew Research Center)

Based on extensive research, college students whose parents didn’t attend college are less likely to earn a degree. Moreover, students with at least one college-educated parent have better chances of getting one. Around 70% of adults aged 22–59 with at least one parent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher have earned a bachelor’s degree.

2. The median household income for a first generation college graduate is $99,600.

(Pew Research Center)

Stats on first generation college students suggest that financial outcomes for adults with a bachelor’s degree depend on their parents’ level of education. In comparison, the median household income in second generation college graduates’ households is $135,800.

Back to Editor’s Pick

3. 20% of Harvard University freshmen are first generation college students in the 2021–22 school year.

(The Harvard Crimson)

Harvard has fewer first gen students among freshmen than last year (22.8%). Moreover, Hispanic students make up 47% of the total number of survey respondents. In addition, African-American students are second with 24.7%, and Asians are third with 15.4%. On the other hand, only 12% of White first gen college students enrolled at Harvard this year.

4. Demographics of first generation college students show that 21% of Black first generation college students graduate.

(Pew Research Center)

Black students whose parents don’t have a degree are less likely to finish college. The same goes for other demographic groups. It’s 29% for White and 15% for Hispanic first generation college students.

18 Memorable First Generation College Student Statistics [2023] (1)

5. 90.7% of first generation Harvard freshmen receive financial aid from the university.

(The Harvard Crimson)

The university’s latest survey tells us that most first gen college students have low family incomes. Furthermore, the statistics on first generation college students say 8.2% of the respondents’ families make $125,000 per year. On the other hand, around 70.6% report an annual family income lower than $80,000. Consequently, these college students rely on financial aid, such as scholarships.

6. 15% of students at Brown University are first generation college students.

(Brown University, Statista)

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Brown University has witnessed a slight increase in first generation college students. Just three years before, only 11% of them attended its program.

7. 21% of Gen Z students are first generation college attendees.

(Statista)

The survey conducted on 14,000 respondents reveals the percentage of first generation college students born after 1997. More than a fifth of them say they are the first ones in their family to attend college.

8. First generation students comprise a third of all college students.

(NASPA)

First generation college students lag behind their peers in many aspects. For example, only 27% of them graduate within four years, while approximately 44% graduate within six.

Statistics About First Generation College Students — What Applicants Need to Know

9. $1.5 million worth of scholarships goes to first generation college students at Temple University.

(Temple University)

Pennsylvania is another state trying to get more first generation students into its universities. For example, Temple University offers generous scholarships to these students to help them reduce student debt. Students will receive between $500 and $5,000 per year, depending on their individual financial needs.

10. 28% of colleges hold data on first generation students.

(EAB)

Less than a third of all colleges store this kind of data. Moreover, first generation college students’ statistics reveal that not all higher education institutions define the term first generation. In fact, 73% of those institutions find it necessary to acknowledge this student population.

11. The number of students who classify as first gen ranges from 22% to 77%, depending on the definition.

(EAB)

The University of Georgia’s latest survey includes 7,300 students. According to the results, some students are often confused about their first gen status. As a result, many of them miss the chance to take advantage of helpful resources.

12. The first generation college student dropout rate is four times higher than that of the students with at least one parent with a degree.

(Very Well Family)

Low educational attainment is associated with low income. Therefore, first generation college students often drop out because of their parents’ inability to pay for college. Moreover, first gen students often don’t know how to prepare for college because of their parents’ lack of college experience.

Surprising First Generation College Student Statistics

13. About 90% of low-income first generation college students don’t graduate within six years.

(EAB)

Studies show these students often have to work more than 20 hours per week to pay for their education. Managing higher education bureaucracy and practicing good study skills at the very beginning are also some of the problems. These factors keep students from graduating on time.

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14. 61% of first gen college students have a professor as their mentor.

(EAB)

First generation students’ statistics indicate that 64% of first generation graduates have a professional mentor who helps them achieve their desired goals. The study gathered data from around 5,107 people. It also shows minority students are least likely to identify a professor as their mentor than the rest of the respondents (47%).

15. Half of the UC Irvine graduates are first generation students.

(Los Angeles Times, UCI)

Not everything is bleak for first gen college students, though. Some states, such as California, are heavily investing in their education. For example, most recent first generation student statistics show that 4,305 out of 8,616 bachelor’s degrees awarded at UC Irvine went to students whose parents weren’t college-educated.

Additionally, 45% of applications for the UC Irvine in 2022 came from first generation college students residing in California.

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16. 91% of first generation students are sure attending college was the right call.

(Inside Higher Ed, Civitas Learning)

On the other hand, only 84% of non-first-generation students think that. Moreover, facts about the US college dropout rate tell us that 20% of students who quit college have finished 75% of their degree requirements.

17. First generation college student statistics estimate that Eastern Kentucky University’s GURU program answers 2,000 first generation students’ questions per day.

(EAB)

Many higher education institutions pay special attention to first gen students, and EKU is one of them. This university hired and trained 35 of its students to help their struggling peers with any potential issues — both personal and academic ones.

18. 17% of first generation students go to a nonprofit private college.

(Pew Research Center)

About 29% of prospective students whose parents have a higher-ed degree go to nonprofit private colleges. However, a relatively small percentage of first generation college students in the US choose private education. On the other hand, about 70% of first generation students attend a public university.

18 Memorable First Generation College Student Statistics [2023] (2)

Conclusion

Being the first in the family to attend college is an empowering tool for some students. However, for others, it’s a considerable disadvantage because of their low socioeconomic status. Moreover, college student statistics show that worrying about finances during a challenging college program proves to be too much for some.

Luckily, many individuals and institutions are committed to alleviating this burden. Hopefully, future generations won’t find being first gen college students any more difficult than those whose parents have higher education.

FAQ

What is a first generation college student?

A first generation college student is someone whose parents didn’t complete a four-year college or university studies. According to NASPA, you are a first gen college student even if your parents took some college classes. Some definitions of first generation students also include people whose parents completed a community college.

You also qualify as a first gen student if your sibling(s) have a college or university degree. Moreover, older family members with postsecondary education don’t count. So, you are a first generation college student in those cases as well.

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Do first generation college students have an advantage?

It turns out first generation students have an advantage in highly selective college admissions. What’s more, elite institutions across the States welcome them every year. They invest a lot in first generation student support.

Also, numerous scholarships and grants are designed to help students and their families achieve their goals. To enhance the student body’s diversity, postsecondary education institutions do what they can to attract as many first generation students as possible.

What percentage of college students are first generation?

The most recent data on first generation college students reveals they comprise approximately a third of the entire college student population. Furthermore, around 60% of the first generation students are the first siblings in the family to go to college.

An interesting fact is that about 40% of first generation college students are female. Overall, White students make up the greatest portion of the first generation student population (46%), followed by 25% of Latinx students.

Do colleges like first generation students?

Yes, colleges love first generation students. In fact, they prefer first generation students to legacy students.

First gen students might think that their socioeconomic background will somehow set them back. However, once on campus, they will see that the institution treats them like everyone else. Additionally, admission officers are more than happy to work with applicants whose parents didn’t attend college.

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What do first generation college students need?

To feel more comfortable on campus, first generation college students need to know what kind of support they can get. Meetings and workshops devoted solely to them can increase the students’ satisfaction and general well-being.

Participating in student organizations can also help first gen students fit in. We’ve already mentioned how important financial aid is to them; therefore, it’s essential to keep them informed about it. In addition, first generation college students benefit from one-on-one counseling with a mentor.

What challenges do first generation college students face?

First generation college students experience various challenges on campus for different reasons. These students often belong to racial or ethnic minority groups. So, they might have problems fitting in, apart from paying for college.

What’s more, many first gen students feel guilty about having more social and financial mobility than their parents. The parents don’t know much about applications and college life, so first generation students struggle with those aspects as well. Unfortunately, they are usually afraid to ask for help.

Do first generation college students get more financial aid?

First generation college students often come from low-income families. Consequently, many of them have to work during their time in college. Fortunately, universities nationwide have recognized this prevalent issue, and they provide multiple funding options for this particular group of applicants.

However, recent studies show that first generation college students are less likely to use college scholarships than their continuing-generation peers, where seven out of ten apply for scholarships. On the other hand, first generation college student statistics show that only five in ten first gen students apply for scholarships.

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