First Generation Student Experiences

Institutional data reveal that although first generation students enter with similar profiles to their continuing generation peers, they are retained and graduate at lower rates, mirroring larger national metrics. This begs the question what is (or is not) happening at UI that is effecting the successful outcomes of first generation students?

This report supplements institutional data with SERU survey responses in order to examine generational differences in more depth, and as a result, a variety of themes begin to stand out.

  • First generation students largely report growing up in a lower socio-economic class than their continuing generation peers.
  • First generation students spend more time working and with their families, which can leave less time for studying academic material, engaging with their peers, and taking part in the educational offering on-campus.

When examined in the aggregate, the summation of the subtle differences that can be identified in SERU between first generation and continuing generation students starts to build the scaffolding necessary to explain why there are differences in the more commonly reports success statistics.

  • When asked about their help seeking behaviors, first generation students report lower levels of comfort being able to ask and find support for their academic course work.
  • First generation students reported higher levels of difficulty in their assignments and taking part in their classes.
  • First generation students identified their family and work responsibilities at higher rates when compared to their peers when asked about obstacles to their success.

However, when asked about satisfaction with their academic and social experiences, the value of their education for the price, and their sense of being valued as an individual at UI, they report levels of satisfaction that are remarkably similar to those of their continuing generation peers.


To read more of the 2016 First Generation Student report, open the pdf document, First Generation Student Responses to Selected SERU Survey Questions
First Generation Student responses to the 2018 SERU and gradSERU surveys are included in the Campus Climate Reports compiled by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.