June 20, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Calvin University is experiencing a significant uptick in its 2024-2025 incoming class, marking back-to-back years of double-digit-percentage increases.

While the number of children of alumni enrolling at Calvin is up significantly from last year, so too is enrollment of first-generation students. In fact, 20% of students in this year’s incoming class are aiming to be the first in their family to earn a college degree—continuing a trend of double-digit growth in this area.

Proven Success

This consistent increase in first-gen students is not surprising when considering the outcomes. According to national statistics, a first-gen student who attends Calvin is nearly twice as likely as one who attends another university to finish their degree in four years.

“Calvin is a great place for first-gen students because it’s a smaller community with so many touchpoints of support. Students can feel known here,” said Hannah Brenton, a student success specialist at Calvin. “We have such a comprehensive coordinated care system that provides a safety net to help students get connected to the academic and social supports they need when they need it.”

Well Supported

One of those support structures is TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), a federally funded program which supports first-gen students by providing access to specialized resources and services that help them stay in and graduate from college.

Calvin also has a dedicated mentorship program that pairs first-gen students with faculty and upperclassmen mentors to provide guidance and personal support.

During his time at Calvin, Ivan Longoria has benefitted from the TRIO program and mentorship from a first-generation staff member and the director of Student Success, Kyle Heys.

“For me to realize he’s first gen and that I could be on the same path as him, to be in such a great position in life like him, that’s inspiring,” said Longoria of his mentor.

Paying It Forward

Longoria is now a tutor and mentor himself to his Calvin peers within the TRIO program. He’s also pursuing an art education degree, hoping to teach in high school and inspire students like him to put higher education in their sights.

“I can apply so many different perspectives to students. I want them to know that any of them can step up to the plate and hit a home run. They are able to do these things when they apply themselves. They just need someone to push them and show them, and I’m a representation of what I’m trying to preach,” said Longoria.

There are countless stories like Longoria’s at Calvin. And while Calvin has supported first-gen students well for years, this past year they doubled down on this commitment, forming a cross-divisional committee called Calvin First. The committee includes folks from student life, student success, admissions, and intercultural student development who create wraparound support and programming to help students thrive and to celebrate their accomplishments.

This includes monthly networking events that connect first-gen college students with other first-gen students, staff, faculty, and alumni. The group also celebrates National First Gen Celebration Day on November 8 each year and this past year introduced a pinning ceremony for graduating seniors.

Additionally, first-gen students have access to academic workshops and training and to additional financial aid and scholarships. Learn more.

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