First-generation students’ success in community college

First-generation students’ success in community college

Nearly one-third of undergraduate students in the United States today are first-generation college students, meaning that neither parent has a bachelor’s degree, according to a recent article by EAB ( At Scottsdale Community College, first-generation students constitute about 40 percent of the student body.

First-generation students willing to invest even just two years for an associate’s degree can earn substantially more annually than those with only a high school diploma ($44,824 vs. $37,960, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Attaining a degree helps set these students up for greater opportunities across their career and personal life.

Local community colleges like SCC offer many inherent advantages that resonate with first-generation college students.

Tuition is only $85 per credit hour and has not increased for more than four years, making SCC one of the most affordable options in higher education today. A full-time student can expect to pay about $2,500 in tuition per year. At a four-year public university in Arizona, that expense jumps to about $10,000 per year, and private schools are even higher.

Students can expect the same robust curriculum and educational opportunities on par with other accredited academic institutions.

Almost 70 percent of SCC faculty members have a master’s degree and 26 percent have a doctoral degree. The average class size is only 16, helping ensure that students receive the individualized attention and high-quality education they deserve.

Learners can choose specialized instruction working toward a high-demand career opportunity or general education and graduate with a certificate or associate’s degree or transfer into a four-year university, if desired.

For students who are undecided about their major, taking introductory coursework enables them to begin their educational journey while they work with skilled academic and career advisors to determine their future academic pathway.

In addition to serving up traditional academic programs, SCC offers multiple career and technical education degree programs that can be immediately applied in their place of employment.

Challenges for first-generation students can include overall readiness for higher learning, support by family including not having anyone share their own collegiate experiences and being a role model for higher education, and overall financial wherewithal throughout the student’s educational journey.

To address some of these gaps, SCC provides extensive career services, counseling and personal development workshops and classes on campus at no cost. Here, students gain valuable career and life skills on goal-setting, time management, test anxiety, relationship issues, determining career interests, and much more.

In addition to low tuition at a community college, many scholarships, grants and federal financial aid resources are available to lessen the financial burden. At SCC, only $35 is required upon registration to hold the student’s place in their classes as they work through the many payment options offered by the college.

Any first-generation college student interested in seeking higher education should consider their local community college as an option.

-Chris Haines, M.Ed., is interim president of Scottsdale Community College. Information: 480-423-6700 or