Re-imagining UVA as a place where first generation and lower income students thrive

    Fill the room!

  • What do we know about First Generation and Low Income students and their experience at UVA in 2021?

    • As of Fall 2000, 2093 First Generation students enrolled as undergraduate students, making up 13% of all undergraduate students enrolled at UVA.
    • Significant increase in number and percent of First Generation students over the past five years: up from 1518 or 9% in 2015
    • Financial aid through Access UVA remains generous relative to peer universities.
    • The pandemic created new pressures on first generation and low income students, much of which needs further exploration and understanding.
    • Low income students who graduate from UVA do well on the job market! 52% of students from the bottom fifth rise to the top fifth as adults. Students from the bottom 20% of the income bracket average out at the 70th percentile as adults. 
    • UVA still enrolls very few low-income students (>3% from bottom 20% of income).

    Focus Groups with First Gen and Low Income UVA Students (collected 2019-20

    We conducted focus groups with 60 first generation students at the University of Virginia to hear more directly from students. All of the focus groups were moderated by first generation and low income students enrolled in LPPP 2500 during the fall of 2019. Click for results.


    Review Institutional Data @ UVA to Gain a Cleaner Understanding of Enrolled Students

    Who is enrolled? What is their status? These are both basic questions, but ones we frequently fumble. We will use data from UVA to sketch out the profile of first generation students currently at UVA. Click for results.

    Review of Survey Data on the UVA Student Experience, data collected 2018

    UVA participates in the Student Experience in Research University (SERU) survey, conducted every two years. What seems to be working and not working for first generation and lower income students? We show some concerning findings with respect to the intersection of race, ethnicity, family income, and first generation status.



    How does policy work at UVA? How might those policies and institutions work better for first generation or low income students?

    Fall 2020's Project First Gen+ @ UVA will jump into this big question: how does orientation work? how does housing work? how does financial aid work? Could we restructure policies and institutions to better serve lower income and first generation college students? Fall 2020

  • Some quick facts on First Gen & Low Income Students at UVA

    Percent of students from the top 1% of the income bracket enrolled at UVA



    Percent of students from the top 5% of the income bracket enrolled at UVA



    Percent of students from the top 10% of the income bracket enrolled at UVA



    Percent of students from the bottom 20% of the income bracket enrolled at UVA



  • Steps we can take today?


    • Clarify expectations on syllabi. Vague assignments and expectations hurt lower income students.
    • Make advising work. Create Association Deans for First Gen+ students.


    • Make better use of library reserves to lower cost of books. Can this be automated in collaboration with the bookstore?
    • Organize work-study into a more transparent marketplace, matching applicants with jobs.


    • Cluster First-Gen+/AccessUVA students in orientations so they can find peers.
    • Be mindful of first impressions with UVA Club Welcome events. Will lower income students feel included, welcomed, expected?

    Areas for further research

    Student Self-Governance: FGLI students share concerns about closed networks and high volume of unpaid work.

    Financial Aid: Students have lots of concerns, but we need to clarify what works and what doesn't.

    Imposter Syndrome: FGLI students report high rates of being at UVA by accident.

    School-specific: What are individual schools doing and doing well?

    Ask harder questions!

    How do we increase the percent of students from the bottom 20% of the income bracket? We've been stuck at ~3% for too long!


    How do we avoid mistaking SES for academic merit?


  • The Team

    Students in LPPP 2500 (2019)

    Focus Group Masters

    Nineteen students from across the university worked toward building our knowledge base on the experiences of lower income and first generation students.

  • Steering Committee & Project Allies

    Bryan Christ

    Founder & Director, Rise up

    Research Associate; Project First Gen+

    Bryan is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy. He is also the founder of Rise Up, a nonprofit designed to provide mentorship to lower income and potential first generation students. Bryan is taking lead on analyzing the student experience survey data.

    Josh Farris

    Conference Chair, AL1GN (2019)

    Curriculum Design Consultant (project alumni)

    Josh graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019. During his last two years at UVA, he became increasingly involved in activism for first generation and low income college students. He led the team to host the AL1GN conference at UVA and served as a curriculum design consultant for Project First Gen @ UVA.

    Paul Martin

    Co-instructor, Project First Gen+ @ UVA

    Paul Martin was a first-generation university student. At Batten, Prof. Martin teaches course on political institutions and the policy process, advocacy, nonprofits, and on politics and policies of conflict and peacemaking. As an undergrad, Paul worked for university security hunting for stolen bicycles, waited tables and tended bar in lots of restaurants, and for a research center.

    Michele Claibourn

    Co-instructor, Project First Gen+ @ UVA

    Michele Claibourn was a first-generation university student from Oklahoma. She is now a computational social scientist working in the library and the data science institute. She teaches data science classes and a Public Interest Data Lab, where students gain practice using data skills to advance social justice. As an undergrad, Michele washed dishes in the dining hall and served food in the faculty club (where every shift at both jobs came with a free meal!), and worked as a research assistant.

    Isaiah Brown

    First Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP)

    Isaiah bio here.

    Brandon Thompson

    Hoo's First Look

    Brandon's bio here bio here.

    Ellie Brasacchio

    Student Council President, 2019-2020

    Ellie bio here.

  • Resources & Organizational Partners

    FLIP: First Generation Low Income Partnership at UVA

    FLIP at UVA is a student organization aimed to support low income and/or first-generation students and allies at the University of Virginia. The purpose of FLIP is three-fold: first, to build a community on campus for students who identify as first generation and/or low income; second, to create resources and work to maximize equal access to resources for those students who need them; finally, to advocate for and implement institutional change with the help of the institution.


    Hoos First Look

    Hoos First Look is an annual three-day, two-night fly-in/gas-reimbursement and academic enrichment program in the Fall semester, running from Friday to Sunday. Everything, including meals, transportation, housing, activity materials, and miscellaneous items will be provided to 20 low-income/first-generation, rising juniors in high school. The program focuses on giving these prospective students the experience of being on a college campus, providing them with resources on the college-application process and financial aid/scholarships, forming strong friendships with each other and mentors, empowering them to achieve academic and personal success, and inciting interest in UVA.


    Hoos First

    Access & First Generation Student Support , UVA Office of the Dean of Students

    The Office of the Dean of Students works to provide comprehensive support services and programs to create equitable educational opportunities for all students across grounds. This includes all students participating in the Access UVA financial aid program, first-generation college students, independent students, non-traditional students, undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.


    Rise Together

    Rise Together is a nonprofit, outcome-driven team mentoring program that connects University of Virginia (UVA) students with K-12 youth in Albemarle County by providing consistent tutoring, leadership training, workforce readiness, entrepreneurial experience, and service learning opportunities designed to promote positive social norms, wellness, personal achievement, and build novel collaborative relationships between UVA and the community.


  • Contact Us

    Don't be afraid to reach out.

    Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy; University of Virginia