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SU Receives First-gen Forward Designation

Written by Allison Nitch

March 5, 2020

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Seattle U is recognized nationally for its outreach to first-generation students

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, recently announced the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward Institutions with Seattle University’s Outreach Center earning this designation. The First-gen Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. 

The Outreach Center provides holistic support to first-generation students as they pursue their university endeavors. The Outreach Center offers students mentorship through the First To Soar program, connection to campus resources with advising and scholarship drop-in hours and weekly community-building events,” says Gretchenrae Campera, MEd, assistant director of Student Success & Outreach. 

As a selected institution Seattle U will receive professional development, community-building experiences and a first at look research and resources through the Center for First-generation Student Success. 

“The center is so pleased to welcome Seattle University into the 2020-21 cohort of First-gen Forward institutions. Through the application process, it was evident that Seattle University is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” says Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.

As a First-gen Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop in Baltimore in June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting and more. 

“We are excited to be recognized for the work Seattle University does with first-generation students, but also acknowledge there is much more to be done to fully actualize our commitment to ensuring all students have the opportunity to thrive and be successful,” says Alvin Sturdivant, EdD, vice president for Student Development. “We are committed to centering the lives of our first-generation students and will use this recognition as a platform for elevating our campus efforts and renewing our energy for supporting our students.” 

Outreach Center recognized for commitment to college opportunity and success for all

Students who are the first in their family to pursue higher education or come from a low-income household continue to be severely underrepresented on college campuses, despite high educational aspirations. While more than 80 percent of such students have expectations of going to college in the 10th grade, only 20 percent will earn a bachelor's degree by age 25.

Seattle University is working to change this trend and has been recognized by nonprofit Strive for College for excellence in the distinctions of completion and outcomes for low-income and first-generation college students.  

Strive for College’s “Strive Five” distinctions are a set of data-based measures of actual performance in five key areas that demonstrate a tangible commitment to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

The “Strive Five” categories are:

•Inclusion—Greater than 25 percent of undergraduates receive Pell Grants, meaning at least one in four students come from a low-income family. Nationally, 32 percent of undergraduates receive Pell Grants across all postsecondary institutions.

•Diversity—More than 40 percent of undergraduates are Black, Latino or Native American. This percentage approximates the national average of undergraduates from underrepresented minority groups across all postsecondary institutions.

•Affordability—Colleges with a net price of less than $13,500 for low-income students, approximately the national average net price for students from households with incomes between $0 and $30,000 who received Title IV federal financial aid across all four-year institutions.

•Completion—Colleges that meet or exceed the national averages for retention (greater than 81 percent first-year to second-year retention rate) and graduation (greater than 51 percent six-year graduation rate for Pell Grant recipients.)

•Outcomes—Greater than 25 percent of graduates who were from the bottom fifth of incomes as students and moved to the top fifth as adults—meaning they have among the highest percentage of students who both came from a lower-income family and ended up a higher-income adult.

The Outreach Center provides holistic support to first-generation students as they pursue their university endeavors. “We are committed to centering the lives of our first-generation students and will use this recognition as a platform for elevating our campus efforts and renewing our energy for supporting our students,” says Alvin Sturdivant, EdD, vice president for Student Development. 

Colleges that partner with Strive for College and meet the criteria for at least one “Strive Five” distinction are awarded a customized badge to highlight their exceptional achievements.

To learn more about the work of the Outreach Center at Seattle University, visit seattleu.edu/student-outreach/resource-spaces/outreach-center/. To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit www.firstgen.naspa.org

To learn more about Strive for College, visit https://striveforcollege.org/.

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