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How First-Generation Students Prepare and Perceive College Affordability

By Maria Carrasco, NASFAA Staff Reporter

A new white paper by Citizens and Everfi highlights how first-generation students prepare and plan to pay for college, as well as those students’ perceptions about attending higher education. 

The white paper uses data from a survey of over 10,000 high school students by Citizens and Everfi and focuses in particular on responses from 7,956 high school juniors and seniors. The survey was conducted in hopes to understand the plans, perceptions, and preparation for college of prospective first-generation college students compared to their peers with college-going parents.

NASFAA recently highlighted what different institutions are doing to support first-generation students, and how those students are more likely to struggle with accessing basic needs and the financial aid process. 

The Citizens and Everfi paper provides further details as to how students with at least one college-going parent are advantaged when it comes to navigating post-secondary enrollment.

“Without direct family experience to draw on, first-generation students are often starting behind their peers with college-going parents when it comes to navigating the application, financial aid, and decision-making processes,”the paper reads. “Would-be first-generation college students are more likely to come from a disadvantaged background, and do not have direct familial experience to draw on when facing the challenges of applying and paying for college.”

According to the paper, while the majority of high school students plan to enroll in college after they finish high school, first-generation students are more likely to consider community college or vocational training. In the survey, students were asked to select one or more types of postsecondary education they were considering attending. 

Eighty-six percent of students with parents who attended college said they were considering attending a four-year college or university, compared to 80% of first-generation students. When it comes to community college, 25% of students with college-going parents said they were considering attending, compared to 34% of first-generation students. And 5% of students with college-going parents were considering attending technical or trade schools compared to 8% of first-generation students. 

First-generation students are also more likely to work while they attend college, the survey found. Thirty percent of first-generation students plan to work part-time and 10% full-time while attending college. Meanwhile, 25% of students with parents who attended college said they planned to work part-time and 6% full time. 

First-generation students are also less likely to rely on family for financial support in college. Forty-five percent of first-generation students said they’ll use money from their parents to pay for college, compared to 60% of their peers with college-going parents. And 47% of first-generation students said they’ll use money they saved themselves to pay for college, compared to 51% of their peers. 

When it comes to financial aid, first-generation students are more likely to plan to use federal loans, 42%, and need-based grants, 47%, to pay for college. Meanwhile 37% of their peers said they’ll use federal loans and 6% will use need-based scholarships or grants. 

In terms of student perceptions about paying for college, the majority – 51% – of first-generation students said they were nervous about paying for college, compared with 43% of their peers. Further 11% of first-generation students said they thought paying for college wasn’t worth it,  a larger percentage compared to their peers with college-going parents at 8%. 

“The gap in college plans, perceptions of the challenges associated with paying for college, and preparation to pay for college reflected in this report shows that those challenges are evident in the attitudes of high school students,” the paper states. “High school students whose parents do not have college degrees aspire to college in substantial numbers. But they are less likely to expect financial support from family members and more likely to perceive the process of paying for college as stressful or not worth it.”

 

Publication Date: 11/23/2022


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