Forty-eight percent of the University's incoming freshman for the 2014/15 academic year were considered first generation students, according to the University's Enrollment Management Division. This is a one percent increase from last year.
Being a first generation student means being the first in a family to attend college to earn a degree. Often the parents of first generation students lack degrees beyond high school diplomas.
In a poll consisting of 10 randomly selected University students, participants were asked to estimate the percentage of incoming first year generation students from the current freshman class.
All participants guessed below the correct number of 48 percent, and the average of all the students polled was about 27 percent. Lisa Berko, a junior marine biology student and participant of the experiment said, "I am so surprised by that high percentage just because Monmouth is a private school, and it's not cheap."
Lorraine Rydel, a junior business major is a first generation student here at the University. "I am not only the first generation to attend college out of my parents but also out of my entire family. My parents pushed me to go to college," said Rydel.
Efrosini Zambas, a senior business marketing major responded to Ryde's comment. "I would have never of guessed you to be a first generation student. It's really hard to tell who is and who isn't first generation," said Zambas.
The large number of first generation students is not a burden to the University, according to Michael Matza, a junior graphic design major. "That's awesome to hear that our freshman class consists of a lot of students being the first in their family to attend college," said Matza.
The level of parental guidance many first generation students receive when starting college may be different than that of a regular University students according to Dr. Robert McCaig, Vice President for Enrollment Management.
"When I went to school my mom and dad were very pro-education. However, they didn't know how to coach me through the process. My parents didn't know that I shouldn't work thirty hours a week while going to school full time," said McCaig.
"They didn't know it was important to get involved or that I should find faculty mentors to help me find an internship," he said.
When asked what could be done to possibly better the assimilation of first generation students specifically into the University community, McCaig said, "For first generation students, it is really important to engage them early, connect with them early, help them understand that there are all types of different ways for them to get help from caring people who want them to be successful."
Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement, believes the University provides many useful resources for students in need of such support. She said that as a first generation student herself, she understands the obstacles faced by many first generation students.
"The biggest issue to me is the "newness" of everything you face. Living away from home in a residential environment, understanding how a course of study is constructed, why there are general education requirements, navigating financial aid, etc. are all new experiences," said Nagy.
According to a majority of the polled students, the University is characterized as an expensive institution affordable for very few. "Monmouth does have a stereotype that only wealthy people come here giving an inaccurate belief on a lot of things," said Berko.
McCaig said that there is aid for low income students at the University. "If you are a smart low income student you can get a merit scholarship from Monmouth, need based aid from Monmouth, a Pell Grant from the government, and a TAG grant from the state government. In this type of situation you could easily afford Monmouth, just like Rutgers University," he said.
Although a student is first generation, this does not necessarily mean that they are also low income. Only a quarter of the 2014/15 incoming class was eligible for state and federal financial aid. That is nearly two times less than the number of incoming first generation students.
College is made of individuals with different ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. Of the incoming freshmen 24.9 percent were from underrepresented backgrounds, meaning they were of a non-Caucasian ethnicity.
"College is a unique experience for everybody. We just bring unique backgrounds to those challenges," McCaig said. He believes that students should be taught the ability to learn from individuals from different backgrounds in the college classroom and environment. "Let college be the laboratory for the world. I think universities have a moral obligation to do that," he said.
IMAGE COMPILED by Dyamond Rodriguez