Serving First-Generation Students at NMSU

June 21, 2019

Note: This version has been revised from the version sent on June 21, 2019.

Educating the students of New Mexico has always been central to NMSU’s land-grand mission. About half of our students are first-generation, meaning neither parent has a college degree, and our NMSU vision statement now specifically recognizes the importance of success with these. It is also more important than ever that we serve first generation students well because these students are predicted to be the fastest growing demographic entering post-secondary institutions in the next ten years.

First-generation students bring different challenges and strengths than the more traditional college-going students. For example, these students:

  • May need help in developing a better understanding about the college experience.
  • Are often academically under-prepared and lack confidence with mathematics and writing.
  • Can have difficulty affording college and lack the finances to participate in social life, study abroad, or events that include additional costs.
  • May not have support from home regarding the pressure and stress of college.

However, first-generation college students have significant strengths. They are highly motivated and they seek a college degree because they want to help themselves, their families, and their communities.  All this means that first-generation college students need more support from us. Here are just some ways you can support all of our students.

  1. Help students navigate the University bureaucracy. Remember that students and their families do not understand our jargon and acronyms so avoid using them.
  2. Teach students how to navigate your class and find the academic support they don’t know is available.
  3. Create experiences for students to connect with their peers, faculty, and staff.  First-generation faculty members and staff are ideal mentors for students.
  4. Ensure faculty and staff in your units understand the needs of first-generation students and provide training so faculty and staff can support students.
  5. Ensure that degree roadmaps are clear and remove barriers hindering student retention and completion such as hidden pre-requisites, lack of course sections, unnecessary registration holds, and bureaucratic run-arounds.

According to CollegeNET’s social mobility index, which is a measure of how well an institution serves students from homes with annual incomes of less than $48,000, NMSU is in the top 10% of over 1300 institutions ranked. While this is a good rating, it is important that we do better.  Many of our faculty and staff are already fully engaged in helping first generation students come to NMSU. However, it will take all of us — faculty, staff, and administrators from across the university, particularly those of us who are first generation or sympathize with such students — to help our first-generation students not just come to NMSU, but to succeed here.

As always, we welcome your feedback at VPSS@nmsu.edu or President.Floros@nmsu.edu.

Renay Scott, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Success

John D. Floros, Ph.D.
President


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