First-generation Students Forge Successful Paths

From an article by Beth Brauer in MSU Today

Part of Michigan State University’s land-grant mission is a commitment to expanding opportunities for a diverse population of learners, including first-generation college students.
To be the first member of a family to pursue and complete a college degree is an achievement worthy of recognition, as the journey to that moment often covers challenging and unfamiliar territory.
Each November, the day of Nov. 8 is recognized as First-generation College Celebration day by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success. The date marks the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was intended to provide opportunities for many minority and low-income Americans.
Michigan State is one of 11 large public research universities working together to increase graduation rates for low-income, first-generation students as part of the University Innovation Alliance. With first-generation students accounting for more than 15% of last year’s entering class, a 90% retention rate for first-year students and a record-high graduation rate of 81%, MSU continues to increase access, opportunity and successful outcomes.
MSU programs such as Trio Student Support Services and the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative provide first-generation students with assistance in navigating the university system, building academic skills and engaging in meaningful academic and life experiences.

Read about the experiences of some first-generation Spartan students as well as faculty members who were the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Student View: Something to be proud of

Marcus Bingham Jr. is a junior majoring in media and information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He is also a member of the men’s basketball team.

You could say it was not a given that I’d go to college. I came from being kicked out of one high school, transferring twice and ended up finishing at a Catholic school, which, in the end, really helped me become a better person.

I feel like a lot of different challenges were thrown at me growing up. There was a lot I could have done that would have sent me down a different path — one that would have been dangerous and not something to proud of.

Basketball was something that got me away from being in the streets and doing bad things; I don’t think others had to face those challenges every day.

My parents and high school coach always told me that if I didn’t have the grades, I couldn’t get accepted into the college I would like to go to. They pretty much stayed on top of me so I could pursue this goal.

Perspective is everything. I had to really look at myself and ask if that troubled kid was who I wanted to be. It wasn’t. I wanted more and I knew that I needed to work hard, both in the classroom and on the court.

Pursuing a college degree was something to be proud of because I didn’t know anyone in my family who had one, and to have the opportunity to earn one from Michigan State meant that I had a lot going for myself.

My advice for others who want to pursue the dream of a college education would be to believe in your dreams and try to do something each and every day to accomplish that. My faith helps to guide me. I know God has a plan for everybody and that if you trust Him and yourself, everything will be fine.

Michigan State felt right because it’s like a family here; everybody is together. My coaches, teammates, professors — everybody — at MSU wants me to achieve great things. I want that too. Something to be proud of.

By Marcus Bingham Jr.