Center for Academic Equity offers resources for first-generation students

Courtesy of the Center for Academic Equity

Courtesy of the Center for Academic Equity

Nile Pierre, News Editor

The Class of 2022 is the most racially diverse class in Tulane’s history. With this increased diversity, however, comes the need to support different populations on campus, including first-generation college students.

The National Center for Education Statistics defines first-generation students as those who are the first in their family to attend college. Data collected in 2012 from the Department of Education found that while 25 percent of white students are considered first-generation, 41 percent of African-American and 61 percent of Latino students are the first in their families to attend college. Students who are both low-income and first-generation are 36 percent less likely to complete their bachelor’s degree than students who do not fit into these categories, according to a 2016 Pell Institute report.

“They are trailblazers in every sense of the word,” Paula Booke, associate director of the Center for Academic Equity, said. “These students have successfully navigated the college admissions process and are now part of one of the most intellectually engaged college communities in the country. They have accomplished all this without the benefit of college-going networks within their families.”

The Center for Academic Equity says it is conscious of the specific challenges that first-generation students face and has a number of initiatives to help support these students on campus.

One program offered to first-generation students, students of color, members of the LGBTQ community and College Track scholarship recipients is the Newcomb-Tulane College Summer Experience. Incoming freshmen spend five weeks on campus prior to orientation, living in residence halls, taking courses for credit and fostering relationships with faculty and staff.

“Participating in the NTC Summer Experience allowed me to create lasting relationships with other students like me and definitely helped me feel more comfortable with going here,” Tulane junior Desiree Isles said.

The Center for Academic Equity also offers opportunities and funding for undergraduate research, summer school and unpaid internships. Additionally, the Center offers to fund summer study abroad programs, giving students the chance to travel and learn internationally.

“A first-generation student may not have the social or economic capital to say that they are going to travel far away,” Tulane professor of Psychology and Africana Studies Michael Cunningham said. “They may not have the economic opportunity to travel home for both Thanksgiving and winter break.”

By giving first-generation students opportunities to conduct research, travel outside of the country and participate in summer internships, the Center says it is looking to fill the achievement gaps and make sure that all students at Tulane are prepared and supported.

Furthermore, these programs help to retain first-generation student enrollment, which benefits the Tulane community as a whole.

“People with diverse backgrounds bring diverse points of view, and researchers will tell you that diverse points of view mean we have a better understanding of complex theoretical principles,” Rebecca Mark, director of the Center for Academic Equity, said.

Other offices, such as the Office of Undergraduate Admission and the Office of Multicultural Affairs also offer support to first-generation students. In 2018, the Office of Undergraduate Admission offered application workshops for students looking to apply to college.

Programming like this is especially important for first-generation students whose families may not be familiar with the application process and cannot offer the support needed. The O also works to be a place to support all students with marginalized identities to succeed on campus.

“Despite the real progress we are making in this area, we know there is still more work to be done,” President Michael Fitts said. “There are still people missing from the table. We need to ensure that Tulane attracts the best and the brightest from every segment of our society.”

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