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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

First-generation students face challenges throughout their college career

In the 2023-24 academic school year, the Baldwin Wallace University admissions office reported a 4% enrollment increase for first-generation students.
Vivian Somes
Strosacker Hall – Student Union with the “Welcome Yellow Jacket” sign.

First-generation students said they still face challenges as they navigate their college careers, even as the number of first-generation students saw a record-breaking increase.  

In the 2023-24 academic school year, Baldwin Wallace University reported a 4% enrollment increase for first-generation students.

Before setting foot on campus, all students must consider the financial commitment of pursuing higher education. This is the same for first-generation students.

Haley Stahlnaker, a first-generation junior, felt like she was “going in financially blind” as she had little to no guidance regarding how to prepare financially for college.

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Daisjah Brown, a junior political science major and first-generation student at BW, said her mom thought that students with high grades and a good resume could easily attend college with a full-ride scholarship.

“I had to face the facts that if I wanted to go to BW, I was going to be somewhat in debt,” Brown said.

Despite these financial misconceptions and concerns, BW offers opportunities for students to receive financial aid.  

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA, is an example of a scholarship available for students to find financial aid programs.  

Danielle Short, assistant director of financial aid at BW, helps students navigate their financial aid offers. 

Short said decoding the jargon of financial assistance can be daunting, especially for first-generation students who may not know what to expect financially from these programs. 

Despite this, these departments designed for helping students with their financial needs are not always as good at providing the aid that students need.  

Brown said that the financial aid office “isn’t really helpful” to students who may need additional financial assistance but instead sends students to other resources. 

Stahlnaker said that on top of finances, she also had some difficulties with finding her place at BW.  

“I went naively into college thinking that I wouldn’t have to work as hard in the social department,” Stahlnaker said.  

Charlize Bernhardt, a senior graphic design major and a first-generation student said one of her current struggles is “setting her path” toward post-graduation employment.  

Stahlnaker, Brown and Bernhardt all said that they have felt alienated because they feel that many of their peers come from financially privileged, middle-class backgrounds. According to the Baldwin Wallace website, only 30% of students at BW are first-generation.  

Bernhardt said she and other first-generation students created the First-Generation Advisory Council in the spring of 2023. Bernhardt said the council seeks to create a supportive space by fostering conversations about life during and after college between first-generation students and faculty. 

“I want to bring [the First-Generation Advisory Council] as my legacy at BW to help out first-generation students who are coming in completely lost, just like I was,” Bernhardt said. 

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