Supporting the Success of Ethiopian First-Generation College Students
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The increase in first-generation college students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds is a challenge for higher education as student support programs and services do not always consider the unique needs of this population. For African immigrant students, receiving culturally competent student support services can help them retain and appreciate their unique cultural identity while connecting with the social cultures of the institution. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of 13 Ethiopian first-generation immigrant students who are attending or have attended a two or four-year college. The participants were selected through purposeful sampling using the snowball technique. The researcher applied a qualitative phenomenological design using purposive sampling and data were collected from interviews, observations, and field notes, and manually analyzed using a modified Van Kaam method. From the analysis four themes emerged, which were: systemic communication gaps persisting, financial struggles and work-school balance, accessibility to culturally responsive services, and the diversity of staff is important. Recommendations include developing culturally specific workshops for staff as well as delivering timely orientation programs for these students. By understanding the impact of culturally competent practices used by student support service professionals, higher education leaders can develop and provide effective programs for this population. Future researchers should consider exploring the needs of other sub-Saharan African first-generation students as well those from other culturally diverse groups, which will ultimately help in better servicing their academic, social, and cultural needs.