First-Generation College Students & Student Employment

Partnership and Project Summary

In the U.S., 56 percent of undergraduates are first-generation students, meaning neither parent possesses a bachelor’s degree. Of first-generation students, sixty-six percent are employed in a part-time job, internship, or work-study position while in college and they work almost twice as many hours per week than their continuing generation peers (20 hours vs. 12 hours). In their freshman year, only 16 percent of first-generation students utilized their campus career services resources.

NSEA is excited to partner with Matt Newlin, an independent consultant and researcher to establish professional development resources that better understand how first-generation students navigate the campus employment and career services experiences in college. This will include:  

  • Research reports examining first-generation student needs in relation to student employment, including gaps in service and best practices
  • A free webinar series for NSEA members exploring first-generation student identities and challenges
  • A national professional network of NSEA members who identify as first-generation students themselves to build community among colleagues

Learn more About Matt NewlinMatt Newlin Picture

Matt Newlin, Ed.D., is a higher education consultant with over 15 years of experience working in financial aid, enrollment management, and college access to expand opportunities for underrepresented students. As a consultant, he works with colleges, universities, and organizations across the country to improve postsecondary equity for first-generation and low-income students. He has worked at both public and private institutions helping students find on-campus employment and preparing for life after college. You can learn more about him and his professional accomplishments on

Project Updates

Supporting First-Generation Students: Institutional Best Practices and Resources - This resource guide is intended to provide student employment professionals a starting point to explore first-generation student support programs from various institutional types. You will also find examples of alumni networks and ways to build first-generation students’ frameworks of support on campus.

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Employment Trends for First-Generation College Students: A Review of the Literature - Research on first-generation students has grown over the past decade and has begun exploring students’ intersectional identities and experiences. Unfortunately, the topic of first-generation students and campus employment or career services is sadly under-researched. However, the extant literature is very informative and may be useful for campus practitioners looking to better serve and support their first-generation students. This resource is intended to help campus employment professionals better understand the institutional and environmental challenges first-generation students encounter while pursuing employment during and after college.

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Strategies for Building First-Generation Students’ Social Capital - For many first-generation students, attending college is the one of the best opportunities to increase their social capital and chances for financial and professional success. However, colleges and universities that do not respond to the needs of first-generation students run the risk of doing the exact opposite by ultimately reinforcing the systemic barriers that prevent postsecondary success for those who are the first in their family to attend college. This guide is a resource for student employment professionals to help them understand the unique needs of and most effective capital-building strategies for first-generation students.

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