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Election-Themed Survey Shows What Issues Matters Most to First-Generation College-Students and Recent Graduates

October 6, 2016

Students who are first in their families to attend college represent 64% of the nation's millennials

A survey released today of millennial voters who were first in their families to attend college offers new details about this influential group, the issues that matter to them most, and how to reach them.

This is the first presidential election where millennials make up the same proportion of votes as Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964. First-generation student millennials — 18-34 year-olds — are 64% of the nation's 75.4 million millennials.

To understand what this voter group cares about most in the upcoming election, millennial staffers at The Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington D.C. surveyed 100 participants in the federal TRIO programs that help low-income, first-generation students access and succeed in higher education.

The survey results showed the group is politically diverse with 55% identifying as Democrat, 10% as Republican, and 35% not identifying with any particular party. Participants are registered to vote and are more than twice as likely to get their political news from social media than newspapers, magazines or radio, although more than 60% continue to look to television for political information.

Higher education is the top concern for most (97%) in this group. Federal financial aid leads the list of education concerns, followed closely by supportive services on campus to assist and motivate first-generation students toward successfully completing their degrees.

"These findings are not surprising given that, unlike many families in which 'collegegoing' is the norm, first-generation students' families generally lack 'college knowledge' to guide them through preparing for, applying to, and paying for college," said Council President Maureen Hoyler. "That makes supportive services like those provided by the federal TRIO programs a critical component, along with financial aid, to the college access and success equation, particularly for low-income, first-generation students."

Healthcare for all (78%), LGBTQ rights (74%), and universal childcare (70%) also emerged as issues of great concern. Gun rights and securing the nation's borders mattered least to those surveyed (33% and 24%, respectively).

"If you are the first person in your family to graduate from college, you are likely the first person to do many other things, like purchase a home, work in a corporate environment or even vote," the study authors wrote. "First-generation millennials have learned to move between classes and are hungry for change. They are mobilized, organized, and ready to be engaged."

For more information or for a copy of the survey findings, please click here Document is available for download (.pdf).