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Much can be said of the multi-tiered and collaborative approach for providing first-generation college students with the support services needed to successfully navigate the world of higher education.

According to the Center for First Generation Student Success, a nationwide Student Affairs Administrative think tank, “First Generation students make up a third of all college students, but only 27 percent will attain their degrees within four years.”

Even though the classification and/or self-identification of a first generation college student is becoming more diverse in definition, however, the U.S. Department of Education identifies and/or classifies a first-generation college student as an individual who is pursuing or attending a higher education institution but whose biological parent(s) never acquired a four-year bachelor’s degree at a college or university in the United States.

Arguably, navigating the culture of higher education can be an uphill climb for a first generation college student without access to pre-college activities and exposure to support personnel within the educational institution in which they attend. These barriers can include but not limited to: limited access to academic tutoring, not understanding university personnel functions, lack of financial aid assistance, limited academic advice and no exposure to career internships. The list can run the gamut.

The U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with Purdue University Northwest, hosts a variety of TRIO-related services intended to provide low-income and potential first-generation college students with the academic and social support needed to effectively navigate the higher education experience. The TRIO programs are part of a federal outreach initiative designed to ensure equal educational opportunities for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnic background or socioeconomic status. Collectively, the TRIO programs assist young people from low-income families and potential first-generation college students as they matriculate from middle school, high school, college and beyond.

For a number of years, the TRIO programs at PNW have provided potential first-generation college students with exposure to activities and layers of support that include, but are not limited to, financial aid workshops, academic tutoring, SAT/ACT preparation, cultural tours, college tours, college application support and grade monitoring. All of these have proven to be beneficial in assisting potential first-generation college students with the necessary support needed to navigate higher education.

Join us on campus to help celebrate and be a part of our I’m First event, which will celebrate the academic and social accomplishments of our first generation college students current and past at the Westville campus from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 and at the Hammond campus from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 27. We will have panel discussions, food, games, music and giveaway items.

Maceo Rainey is director of educational talent search at Purdue University Northwest-Westville Campus. He has over 20 years of experience in public education and can be contacted at raineym@pnw.edu. The opinions are the writer's and not necessarily those of The Times or Purdue University Northwest.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.