First Not Last: A Not-So-Modest Proposal to Support First-Generation, Low-Income Students at the University of Pennsylvania

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Low-Income College Students; College Access; Student Readiness; Elite University; Financial Aid; Student Supports; Retention and Graduation
Educational Leadership
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Student Counseling and Personnel Services
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First-generation, low-income (FGLI, pronounced “figly”) students, including women, underrepresented minorities, and undocumented immigrants, represent a growing presence in higher education. These ambitious scholars arrive at community colleges and four-year public and private university campuses with characteristics that set them apart from middle-class and affluent classmates whose parents earned college degrees. These differences exacerbate at elite institutions historically known for educating wealthy students. This capstone explores the question, “What does it mean to be a first-generation, low-income student at an elite university, and how can institutions of higher education best support FGLI students?” I examine the national landscape and then turn my lens to the University of Pennsylvania, where I work on behalf of the FGLI community as a student affairs administrator. This capstone follows the Technical Thesis model of investigation by examining peer-reviewed scholarly research, conducting qualitative interviews, and performing data analysis from my workplace. This capstone concludes with a proposal for organizational change by creating the comprehensive Penn Plus Program.

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Submitted to the Program of Organizational Dynamics, College of Liberal and Professional Studies, in the School of Arts and Sciences in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania Advisor: John Eldred
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