By Jordan Beach
In 2017, The Council for Opportunity for Education, in partnership with the Center for First-Generation Student Success – an initiative of NASPA and the Suder Foundation, celebrated the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration Nov. 8 on Capitol Hill. Nov. 8 marks the 54th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which helped millions of first-generation, low-income/under-resourced students persist to degree completion.
Reinhardt University is truly a first-choice school for first-generation college students because of the strong support system that helps them navigate their way. This week, Reinhardt celebrates its more than 300 students currently studying as first-generation college students, more than one-fourth of the entire student population.
“You have shown determination, persistence and resourcefulness to get to college; these traits will help you be successful and thrive here at Reinhardt as well,” said Dr. Walter May, dean of students. “We are proud of you and are rooting for you. We are here to support and celebrate your resilience, tenacity and achievements.”
J’aLai Price ’21 is a first-generation student at Reinhardt studying musical theatre. After spending much of her education in homeschool, Price searched for a college campus with a lower population size. She discovered Reinhardt was her perfect fit.
“I know there are many small schools out there, but what made Reinhardt different was the people on campus,” said Price. “It felt like each person cared about me and after I was accepted, the University lived up to its message. I wasn’t just a number and I had – and still have – a support system around me who push me to accomplish each and every one of my goals.”
First-generation students often encounter unique challenges as they navigate new territory with their family.
“Going into an environment my parents and I knew nothing about was a challenge itself,” Price said.
Once Price and her sister entered high school, her parents began to approach the financial aspects of college.
“They never filled out a FASFA or even knew what a FASFA was. Therefore, among other difficult obstacles, the preparation and application process were one of the biggest challenges because it was something new that we all had to quickly figure out and learn how to do.”
After meeting with Reinhardt’s financial aid office, Price and her family felt prepared to tackle her sister’s college experience in the future.
“Although it was a challenge, my financial aid counselor helped me and my family every step of the way and is one of the reasons why now when my sister begins her college career, she and my parents will be far more equipped than we ever were four years ago.”
From academic advisors to the Student Health Center, Student Affairs staff and career services, Reinhardt is ready to support all students with what they need. There is a plethora of resources available no matter what students may face. The financial aid team can help find scholarships or funding sources for tuition and payment, the Business Office sets students up with payment plans and the Student Affairs team can guide students to organizations that help them find their place on campus. Students can learn more about resources at https://www.reinhardt.edu/student-life/student-services-resources.