Contrasting Challenges of Urban, Suburban, and Rural First-Generation College Students to Improve Retention Programs


  • Franceska Jones Morgan State University, USA
  • Thomas Eveland Ohio Dominican University, USA
  • Brian Besong Saint Francis University, USA



first-generation college students, academic success, urban education, college retention, literature review


The success of first-generation college students (FGCS) is critical to higher education’s role in promoting equity and social mobility among underrepresented populations. Although research on FGCS exists, a comprehensive literature review demonstrates an overgeneralization of FGCS characteristics in the presentation of the data. This study reviewed literature from 2000 through 2020 to identify barriers to academic success reported by FGCS in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Findings show varying challenges across settings in three themes: issues arising from academic preparation, issues in persistence, and non-academic influences. The implications of this study guide postsecondary institutions in creating more effective retention programs to address the challenges FGCS faces in a given setting. By illuminating differences in FGCS challenges, this study combats overgeneralizations of a diverse and geographically dispersed population of students.


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Author Biographies

Franceska Jones, Morgan State University, USA

FRANCESKA C. JONES, MNO, is a doctoral candidate at Morgan State University in the Community College Leadership program, an adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. Her dissertation research centers on community colleges alumni giving. She has expertise in student support services and retention. Email: 

Thomas Eveland, Ohio Dominican University, USA

THOMAS J. EVELAND, Ph.D., is an assistant professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Business at Ohio Dominican University. His research focuses on various business topics and first-generation college student success.

Brian Besong, Saint Francis University, USA

BRIAN BESONG, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy at Saint Francis University. His research focuses on ethics and moral knowledge.