Vermont State University Celebrates its First-Generation Students

Nearly half of VTSU students are first in their families to attend college.

November 8th is First Generation College Celebration day (FGCC), celebrated annually to commemorate the signing of the Higher Education Act (“HEA”) of 1965by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act created federal financial aid programs to fund students’ educations and made key investments in colleges and universities. Many of the HEA’s programs promote postsecondary access, retention and completion for today’s first-generation college students. For Vermont State University, this is a particularly important movement because nearly half of the students are the first in their families to attend college. These nurses, teachers, artists, mental health counselors and scientists are changing the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families for generations to come.

“While students who are the first in their families to go to college are often highly motivated and eager to excel in a college setting, they may face additional challenges and Vermont State University is very focused on supporting our students to overcome those barriers,” said Nolan Atkins, acting president of Vermont State University. “Navigating financial aid to pay for school can be tricky, and many families of first-generation students lack experience to support the students on their college path—for example to help them choose coursework to meet standards for admission. Our approach is to always meet these students where they are and support them every step on their journey,” he explained.

Nearly half (47 percent) or 1,566 of VTSU’s undergraduate student population are first-generation, with 64 percent of online students being first-generation.

“This year, we are proud to have launched our new holistic advising model, where each new student works with both a faculty and staff advisor,” Atkins added. “Advising at VTSU is student-centered and relationship-based. The new approach takes each individuals needs, whether they opt to study in-person, online, or both, and whether they are arriving from a high school setting, transferring from another university, returning to higher education after a break or seeking a career change. This can be particularly important to first-generation students, as an advisor serves as each student’s ‘go-to’ person for academics, co-curricular experiences, and personal challenges throughout their time at VTSU.”

Atkins shared that VTSU has several celebrations planned on its campuses on November 8th to recognize first-generation students.