First-generation students can get support they need


They wear average clothing and walk briskly to and from classes. They make up 63 percent of Northern Kentucky University’s student population, and they are known as first-generation college students.

Student Support Services specialist Anita Adkins describes a first-generation college student as one whose parents have not completed bachelors’ degrees. She believes first-generation students differ from students with degree-holding parents. For one, they may not know all the questions to ask. Generally, Adkins said first-generation students come from lower-income families, making paying for college more difficult.

“First-generation students carry the burden of success and also a responsibility to their families,” Adkins said.

Emily Crawford, a graduate student in the computer information technology program, believes that being a first-generation student has affected her education.

“The financial aspects of my education have been the most difficult for me to figure out,” Crawford said. “My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my education and didn’t go to college so I have been the one making all the financial decisions.”

Since first-generation students make up the majority of the NKU student body, Adkins said it is important that the university learns how to serve these students. She said first-generation students have a much lower graduation success rate than non-first-generation students.

Recently, Adkins and Student Achievement Center Director Susan Mospens led a workshop for advisers on how to properly advise first-generation students.

Along with offering advising workshops, the Student Achievement Center offers several programs in Student Support Services for first-generation students who meet two out of three qualifications. The criteria is being a first-generation student, having a low income and/or having a disability recognized by the state. Currently, the Student Achievement Center can only accept 225 students into their program since it is funded by a grant. Adkins and the staff at Student Support Services reapply for the grant every five years.

Mospens decides which students are accepted. Once accepted, students receive several benefits, including advising, career/major assessment,counseling, financial guidance and workshops.

“The SSS program keeps me sane,” said sophomore theater major Jessica Borchers. “It has provided me with people to rely on academically and mentally.”
Borchers described the program as one that has created a second family for her.

Adkins said they would like to expand Student Support Services to more students, but looming budget cuts are a factor. She will be going to the Kentucky state legislature soon to lobby for funding.
For first-generation students who are not accepted or do not qualify for the Student Support Services program, Adkins offered some advice for academic success. She said it is important for first-generation students to establish extensive relationships with advisers on campus. She also said it is important to get involved and find a connection with other students on campus.
Even if a student isn’t in the Student Support Services program, Adkins said students can stop by the Student Achievement Center located in the first floor of the University Center for assistance anytime. If students are interested in joining Student Support Services, they can apply online at