Socioeconomic status is a significant indicator for college retention and advancement to professional degrees. For first-generation-low-income (FGLI) students, many financial/non-financial obstacles exist.
Most intuitive are the financial obstacles, such as supporting family, lack of familial financial support, and lack of pre-college resources (tutoring/SAT prep). This is particularly true in the biomedical sciences due to lengthy training periods that feature lower pay and a lack of standard employee benefits, relative to their non-academic peers. Further, many FGLI students can’t volunteer in research labs to become competitive for graduate programs because they often work part-time jobs to “make-ends-meet”.
Non-financial obstacles also exist, such as imposter syndrome, survivor’s guilt, family achievement gap, loss of belonging at home while climbing socioeconomic ladder, and lack of knowledge of the academic rules/structures for success. The intersectionality of overlapping identities (gender, race, sexuality, and disability) further compounds this. These challenges often continue throughout the trainee’s career.
In this presentation, I will address these challenges and discuss ways in which the IRACDA host-institution, University of Pennsylvania, and IRACDA partner-institution, Rutgers University-Camden, are together addressing these obstacles at the high school and undergraduate-level to improve FGLI student sense of belonging, retention, and outcomes. This includes PENN-FIRST (FGLI office with programming for FGLI students and Faculty education on FGLI issues), Bridging-the-Gap (tuition-free education at Rutgers-Camden to FGLI students), and the pursuit of NIH funding mechanisms between the two universities that provides underrepresented undergraduates with research-stipends. These programs will set the stage for a more equitable future in the biomedical sciences.