New Burdens for First Gen College Students

Photo: Don Harder / Flickr

CITY COLLEGE — The coronavirus upended college education, especially for students who are the first in their families to move beyond high school. “When you’re at home, the environment makes it difficult to be motivated,” Maurice Matthews, a York College junior, said. After CUNY switched to online classes to fight the spread of COVID-19, he began to fall behind. “It’s not just the class itself being online…. You feel disconnected and checked out from school,” he said.

Online learning provides challenges. Internet service is spotty or weak in some neighborhoods, and some families don’t have access to it all. “A lot of people in low-income homes don’t have a good Wi-Fi connection, so this is another problem,” he added, speaking for himself and many other first-generation students. If their only outlet for communicating with professors is via the Internet, it’s more challenging to keep up with their coursework. “I can still get everything done, but it will definitely be harder,” he said.