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Struggling With Perceived Isolation, Many First-Gen College Students Face Mental Health Problems

Growing up poor outside Detroit in Dearborn Heights, Tanner Bonner worked at a sandwich shop part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer to help support his family.

His mom is unemployed, while his dad has been on disability since hurting his back cleaning carpets.

His senior year of high school, Bonner earned a perfect score on the ACT and won a national scholarship for students whose families earn, on average, less than $13,000 each year. He was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and started classes there last fall.

About 20 percent of MIT students are from low-income families, according to federal data. Bonner, the first in his family to go to college, says he often feels socially isolated — even though the 19-year-old sophomore is surrounded by peers his age.