First-generation students focus of new NAU program

More than 40 percent of NAU’s students are the first in their families to attend college, and a new investment from the Suder Foundation will allow the university to build on its mission to help these students succeed.

NAU was one of two universities recently selected to serve as a site for the Suder Foundation’s First Scholars program, an innovative initiative aimed at bolstering support for first-generation students.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I know how important it is that Northern Arizona University offers programs and services that address the challenges such students face,” said NAU President John Haeger.

The Suder Foundation will invest $850,000 at NAU over the next five years, with $500,000 designated for student scholarships. The remainder will be used to develop programming and support focused on helping first-generation college students earn a degree.

NAU will launch the program with 20 students in the fall of 2014, growing the cohort each year as students return.

“We’re pleased to expand our affiliate network to include Northern Arizona University,” said Eric Suder, founder of the Suder Foundation. “We are going to do great things together to make a difference in the lives of more students. NAU will join a prestigious group of universities making a real impact in first-generation college students’ success.”

The First Scholars program has an average 92 percent retention rate and estimated 85 percent six-year graduation rate, significantly higher than the nationwide average 72 percent retention rate and 34 percent graduation rate for all first-generation students.

The First Scholars program will partner NAU with existing affiliate institutions that include the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, the University of Memphis, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Washington State University. The long-term vision of the program is to grow the national network to more than 100 universities that each serves 200 students.

NAU and Kansas State University were selected as the 2013 affiliates resulting from a national competitive process involving multiple public undergraduate institutions. To qualify for consideration, colleges and universities must have a population consisting of a significant percentage of first-generation college students and a demonstrated commitment to student success.

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