What can we do to admit and graduate more first-generation college students? This is a question that seems to animate much public policy these days. Intellectuals on the right and the left concerned with income inequality and the pace of upward mobility believe that getting students from less educated families into and through college should be among our highest priorities. And schools themselves have taken note.
This fall, during the first week of classes at College of the Holy Cross, for instance, first-generation students were offered daily special activities ranging from a career fair to a panel discussion to a student-faculty kickball game. An email announcing the daily activities explained: “The purpose of this week is to celebrate and highlight the successes and challenges of first-generation college students.”