Missouri State University’s promise to ensure first-generation student success is working. Now it’s sharing the strategies behind that progress with the rest of the state.
The university hosts the Sustaining First-Generation Students Conference for higher education professionals 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 6 at Plaster Student Union.
Faculty, staff, students and administrators will share research, programs, processes and practices that support and sustain the first-generation student population.
“This conference symbolizes the commitment Missouri State’s made to first-generation college students,” said Alisa Garbisch, assistant director of residence life. “We embrace the experience, skill and values that our first-gen students bring to campus.”
Registration for the daylong conference closes Sept. 15 and is $65. Undergraduate and graduate students can register for $35.
The conference includes lunch and a keynote presentation with Dr. Charlie Nelms, a nationally recognized expert in higher education. He is a senior scholar at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
The problem and Missouri State’s solution
Students who are the first in their families to attend college can find college life to be confusing and frustrating. They don’t have older relatives to go to for advice.
If first-gen students leave college without degrees, they’re less likely to get a college-level job. They’ll also have debt and struggle to pay it off.
First-gen students comprise about one-third of Missouri State’s student population. The university started its mission to better serve them with a pair of initiatives: A student organization for first-gen students, and first-gen-only first-year courses.
The plan is working. The “I’m First” student organization increased its membership to 80 in 2016, up from about 25 the year before. Meanwhile, those first-year course sections in 2015-16 had a retention rate of 80 percent. First-gen students not in those sections had a rate of 73 percent.