These states have the highest rates of first-generation students

The median parental income for dependent first-generation students is $41,000. For continuing-generation students, it's $90,000.

More than half of today’s college students are first-generation (56%), according to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). As more institutions and nonprofits emphasize incentivizing these cohorts of potential students to enroll, the ceiling will undoubtedly rise.

Pulling data from The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study-Administrative Collection (NPSAS-AC) and the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), Forbes Advisor has discovered exactly who these students are, their college preferences, and their locale.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, more than half of all Hispanics or Latinos (60%); Black persons or African Americans (59%); and American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders (54%) identify as first-generation students. However, while only 36% of white students identify as first-generation, they still make up the most significant chunk of this cohort compared to other races and ethnicities (46%).

Additionally, among first-generation students from an immigrant background, 67% are third-generation immigrants. Comparatively, only 10% of these students are foreign-born, first-generation immigrants. This ultimately means that first-generation students more likely need to be ingratiated into U.S. culture before leaping to a college or university program. Such insight allows institutions to develop more outreach initiatives targeted at these students.

It also seems that private, for-profit colleges seem to be a magnet for first-generation students. Specifically, first-gen students comprise 72% of 4-year schools in this sector, followed by 70% at 2-year schools. Public and private, non-profit four-years came dead last at 47% and 43%, respectively. This may be due to first-generation students preferring low-cost, non-competitive institutions, but Forbes Advisor posits that more selective schools can offer better support and student outcomes.

Lastly, the median parental income for dependent first-generation students is $41,000. For continuing-generation students, it’s $90,000.

NASPA and Forbes Advisor’s definition of first-generation students is someone with both parents have who has not earned a bachelor’s degree. Students whose parents either earned a two-year degree or attended college but did not earn a degree still count toward this definition.

More from UB: LGBTQ+ attacks mount as students, allies rally to defend rights

First-generation students: Top 15 states of concentration

State Percent of first-generation students
1. California 46.5%
2. Rhode Island 44.6%
3. Arizona 43.8%
4. Nevada 43.7%
5. Texas 43.5%
6. Louisiana 43.2%
7. Kentucky 43%
8. New Mexico 42.8%
9. West Virginia 42.5%
10. Arkansas 41.8%
11. Idaho 41.4%
12. Delaware 41.3%
13. Pennsylvania 40.2%
14. Mississippi 40.1%
15. Florida 39.8%


States with the fastest growth of first-gen students

  1. Rhode Island: 58%
  2. Delaware: 39%
  3. Alaska: 27%
  4. Idaho: 23%
  5. Louisiana: 21%
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

Most Popular