RSU Celebrates First-Generation College Students

students posing for photo

Being a first-generation college student is an act of courage. The United States Department of Education reports that 33 percent of higher education students in the United States are first in their family to attend college. At Rogers State University more than 1,700 students are first-generation, and on November 8 they were celebrated for their commitment to education.

“I applaud our students who are the first in their family to attend college; they deserve all the recognition and support our institution can provide. I want them to know that RSU is truly here to help each of them achieve their educational goals,” Dr. Robert Goltra III, vice president for student affairs, said.

First-Generation Day celebrates the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965. HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education.

Additionally, HEA ushered in federal programs, including TRIO, student assistance programs necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

“Many of our first-generation students realize that education is a way to break the cycle of poverty they experienced as a child. They are motivated to get a college degree to make a better life for future generations, and many are parents modeling for their children that education is critical in attaining the future they desire,” Dr. Goltra said.

Being a first-generation college student comes with its own unique challenges. Support from RSU counselors with the TRiO Programs ensure that students are equipped with the resources they need. These programs support underrepresented ethnic minority, economically disadvantaged, and first-generation college students. Zoe Peters, a fine arts and multimedia sophomore from Claremore, said RSU has championed her along the way.

“To be celebrated as a first-generation student means the world to me.  It has been a nerve-wracking journey for me knowing I’m the first in my family to take the journey, but I’m not alone. RSU has supported my college journey with scholarship money, while also providing supporting services such as tutoring, financial coaching, counseling and academic advising,” Peters said.

Charles Whitlock, a junior from Vinita studying physical science, math and physics, is a non-traditional student coming back to attain his educational goals. He began at RSU Bartlesville and transitioned to the Claremore campus. He encourages other first-generation and non-traditional students to communicate their needs.

“I cannot begin to explain the impact that I have had on my educational path by simply talking to my instructors and faculty on campus. Never be afraid to ask a question and if the person you ask cannot answer, seek out someone who can,” Whitlock said.

First-Generation Day included a panel presentation and lunch and learn by the Council on Education. The event was sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, Student Government Association and Student Support Services.

“First generation students are an essential part of our community on campus. This week, we recognized their bravery in being the first in their family to pursue higher education,” Kurt Levan, SGA president, said.

For more information about RSU Student Support Services, call 918-343-7575.