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First-Generation College Students Get Extra Help To Graduate


First-generation college students have it tough – especially if those students are also low income.  


Research from the Pell Institute shows that only 11 percent of students who are both first-generation and low-income graduate college within six years. By contrast, their wealthier peers whose parents did attend college graduate 54 percent of the time.  


First-gen college students often work while in school and require remedial courses, stacking the odds against them even higher.

At Nevada State College alone, first-gen students comprise 61 percent of the population overall, so it's no wonder Southern Nevada colleges are trying to increase their their graduation rates. 

Robin Smith is the director of student support services at Nevada State College. The college recently started its own TRIO services, which is a group of programs funded by the Department of Education focused on specific student groups.

The TRIO programs at NSC focus on first-generation and low-income students. 

"Our primary focus is helping students navigate college and having the tools and the skill set that they need to be successful in college," Smith said.

Smith said the program provides tutoring, academic advisors, academic course selection help, financial aid and scholarship information.

Danielle Donato is the director of student support services at UNLV. She said first-generation students need extra support. 

"They don't really get support of the families and it's not the families fault," she said, "It's because they're not aware of the system"

Donato said it is difficult to help someone navigate a system they you don't understand yourself.

"I think that first generation students get frustrated because they don't know where to go," she said, "They don't know where to ask questions and they can't ask their parents because they don't know as well"

The two schools don't just make an effort to help students already enrolled they also target students in high school with programs designed to help them understand the process of enrolling in college and the programs to help them finish. 

Find  UNLV's TRIO offerings here and  Nevada State College's here.











Danielle Donato, director of student support services, UNLV; Robin Smith, director of student support services, Nevada State College 

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.