BHSU, President Nichols Celebrate National First-Generation College Day

Black Hills State University joins the celebration of Nov. 8 as the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, this legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education. 

BHSU President Laurie S. Nichols personally understands the importance of this day.

“I, too, was a first-generation college student as my parents did not have the opportunity to attend post-secondary education,” Nichols said. “My sister and I were the first to attend, and thankfully we were able to navigate a highly unfamiliar landscape. While we attended different colleges in South Dakota, I was so glad we had each other for support and information. I made all the typical mistakes of a first-generation student, including failure to seek academic support when I needed it, missing out on important resources or deadlines because I didn’t know about them, and working too many hours so that I could afford college. But despite these setbacks, I persevered and graduated. I tell people that it wasn’t always pretty, but it worked!

“I am so pleased that Black Hills State University is celebrating First-Generation Day to honor students who are first in their family to attend college. As a regional public university, our mission is to provide broad access to college education for citizens who live within West River and the Black Hills. A significant portion of BHSU’s student population is indeed first in their families to attend a college or university.

“Going to college was one of the very best decisions I have made because it completely changed my life. I would not have been a teacher, a professor, a Dean, Provost or President had I not gone to college. I would not have traveled internationally, nor met my husband had I not gone to college. And I would not have worked with so many wonderful people…all of whom have made my life better. College is a broadening experience, and it opens doors to unlimited opportunities.”

The Higher Education Act (“HEA”) emerged out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Much like other hallmark legislation of that era, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. Additionally, HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

Click here to learn more about the Higher Education Act of 1965, the creation of Federal TRIO programs, and the history of National First-Generation College Celebration.