PULLMAN, Wash. – An $860,000 grant will allow Washington State University to establish a First Scholars program, providing support for first-generation college students on the Pullman campus. First-generation students are those whose parents have no education beyond high school.
 
The Suder Foundation recently awarded WSU’s Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment funding over five years to establish the program. It will provide students with mentoring, individualized tutoring and scholarship support.
 
Gift contributes
to campaign effort
 
As part of the Campaign for Washington State University, Student Affairs and Enrollment is striving to raise $45 million in support of general scholarships and student support services. 
 
The First Scholars gift will provide $500,000 toward scholarships. The remainder will provide student support in the form of tutoring, mentoring and leadership training.
“The university’s proven expertise with student support programs will be an asset as we continue to identify successful strategies for assisting first-generation college students,” said Diane Schorr, executive director of the foundation. “The team members involved in implementing First Scholars are as excited and interested in serving students through this model as we are.”
 
A culture to improve the future
 
“As a land grant institution, supporting first-generation and low-income students is a big part of our culture,” said Risë McGill, WSU development director.
 
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 36 percent of first-generation students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment, compared with 43 percent of their peers whose parents have some college education and 60 percent of their peers whose parents have college degrees.
 
“This program will allow us to provide a more transformative, affordable and accessible education that will impact students for generations to come,” said Luci Loera, assistant vice president for enrollment management.
 
Twenty students each year
 
Goals for the first year of the grant include establishing an office on campus, hiring a program coordinator and developing a comprehensive array of support services.
 
The plan calls for the first cohort of 20 students to arrive on campus in fall 2012, with new cohorts of 20 students arriving each year after. In addition to mentoring and tutoring, each student will receive $5,000 scholarships for each year of good progress toward completion of an undergraduate degree.
 
The Suder Foundation partnership with WSU is very much appreciated, said John Fraire, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment: “We are excited for this opportunity to expand our services to first-generation students.”
 
Foundation began in 2008
 
Eric Suder is founder and chairman of the board of ESI (Estech Systems, Inc.), a company that develops and manufactures phone systems for businesses. He established the foundation and the First Scholars program in 2008 to dramatically increase the graduation rate of first-generation college students.
 
In June, Suder and Schorr spent two days in Pullman getting acquainted with the campus and community.
 
In addition to WSU, The Suder Foundation funds First Scholars programs at the University of Alabama, University of Kentucky, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and University of Memphis.
 
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Sources:
Risë McGill, University Initiatives, 509-335-7456, ramcgill@wsu.edu.
Luci Loera, Enrollment Management, 509-335-3397, lucila@wsu.edu.
Media contact:
Steve Nakata, Student Affairs and Enrollment, 509-335-1774, nakata@wsu.edu.