First Generation Students Spoke to About the Economic Impacts of a Degree


(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

A forum addressing the economic impact of first generation college graduates took place Wednesday at the Spencer Fox Eccles Business building.
This event was sponsored by the Economic Club of Utah, the Salt Lake Chamber and the Deseret News. Speaking on this topic were presidents from four different universities: the U, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University-Idaho, and Salt Lake Community College.
President David Pershing represented the U at this forum.
“Both my wife and I are first generation students. My father never graduated from college,” Pershing said. “He worked in a factory and always encouraged [his children] to go to college. I think that education is the most critical aspect necessary for success.”
Pershing said education helped guide him to a better future.
“Even while I was serving in the military in Vietnam, having a college degree really opened some doors for me and gave me opportunities I could not have imagined,” Pershing said.
The U is heading in a new direction to achieve more inclusion in their admissions, Pershing said.
“I am proud to say that 32 percent of our incoming freshman class was comprised of first generation and minority students,” he said. “Coincidentally, this is also the highest academic achieving class we have accepted at the university.”
Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, said higher education is comparable to the Revolutionary War.
“We fought off the British so that children were not defined by their parents’ station,” Crow said. “This country was founded on the belief that a man’s future is defined on what he does.”
However, Crow said he was not pleased by the direction the United States was heading globally with first generation graduate students.
“We are ranked thirteenth amongst all other countries for college attainment,” Crow said. “We are underperforming at a national and international level, and this hurts our economy.”
Crow also said costs of higher education are keeping out potentially gifted students, and that each generation is becoming less educated than the last.
“My son’s generation, that is young adults under 35, are less educated about the world than my generation or even my father’s generation was,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”
A majority of the Economic Club’s members attended the event.
Taylor Randall, dean of the School of Business, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“Our Econ Club has been working very hard to find relevant topics to hold these forums,” Randall said. “Discussing the impact of first generation students is very on trend and makes a huge impact on our campus.”
William Lindsey, a senior in business, attended the forum and said he enjoyed the atmosphere.
“There are a lot of interesting and influential people here,” Lindsey said. “Being able to sit at the same table and just share ideas back and forth is incredibly beneficial to future networking.”
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