March 16, 2010

Jeff Davis Supports First-Generation Students and Their Ability to Succeed

firstgeneration.jpgDirector of The Learning Center Jeff Davis appeared on "Forum with Michael Krasny," National Public Radio, on March 10. His appearance coincided with the publication of his new book titled, "The FIrst-Generation Student Experience: Who They Are, Their Characteristics, and Strategies for Improving Their Persistence and Success."

Davis took part in a panel discussion of first-generation students in the American post-secondary school system. Krasny's show was part of a series on the health of post-secondary institutions in this period of economic decline. The economic decline is affecting first-generation students more dramatically than traditional students, He says. First generation students have lower persistence rates, lower graduation rates and lower GPAs than non first-generation students.

The First-Generation Student Experience arose out of Davis's work with first-generation students as director of SSU's Learning Skills Services and NoGAP McNair Scholars project. As much as 40 percent of the SSU student population are first-generation students, who are people whose parents do not hold a four-year degree.

At the heart of Davis's book are 14 narratives describing the first generation student experience written by SSU students. Davis translates the experience of these SSU students for a national audience, describes what is known about the performance of these students generally, and offers suggestions for how institutions can do a better job of serving this student category.

Davis hopes to continue his work with first-generation college students by creating an Institute for the Study of the First-Generation Student Experience at SSU. He believes that one of the easiest ways to improve graduation rates at American post-secondary institutions is to pay more attention to the characteristic difficulties of these students.

If the persistence and graduation rates of first-generation students begin to approach that of non first-generation students, the students themselves, post secondary institutions, and the American economy can only benefit, he says.

To follow his radio comments, visit

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057