Empowering FIU First-generation Students Reach New Heights

Sonja Montas-Hunter, Ph.D., Bridgette Cram, Ph.D., & Jeannette Cruz, Ed.D., / The Center / January 06, 2020


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First-generation students are part of the foundation on which we built our University. From the top University leadership—our own President Rosenberg is a first-generation college graduate – to the students we serve, the success of this population of students is core to our mission of providing accessible post-secondary educational opportunities to students, no matter their family history. FIU connects first-generation students to a quality education and high-impact practices that enable them to achieve academic success at all levels. FIU first-generation students are the trailblazers of success and boast a First-to-Second Year Retention rate of 91.2% and an average first-year GPA of 4.07.

Some of our unique programs have celebrated success over the years. Since 2006, FIU’s First Generation Scholarship, which is matched by the state of Florida, has awarded more than 13,000 scholarships to first-generation students.

Created in 2014 to support FIU’s commitment to increase access and academic success, Student Access and Success (SAS), creates pathways for underserved minority populations in South Florida. These programs, such as the FIU Golden Scholars Summer Bridge Program, works directly with primarily first-generation students who graduate from a high school within the City of Miami; the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program prioritizes first-generation graduate students and the FIU cohort has the highest retention rate for doctoral students in the state of Florida at 87%. One of the McKnight doctoral students began her academic journey in our FIU Upward Bound program and is now a 4th year doctoral student in Public Health, serving as a testament that continuity of services and sense of community does impact success at every level.

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FIU has a tradition of hosting the U.S. Department of Education TRiO programs designed to support the academic success of first-generation students. We have hosted TRIO programs since 1992 − 27 years! Our programs include Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Upward Bound Math-Science, Educational Talent Search and the Ronald E. McNair Baccalaureate Achievement Program. These programs contribute to FIU being one of the largest producers of bachelor’s degrees of historically underrepresented students, including first-generation.

Our commitment goes beyond serving students by ensuring that our campus community is ingrained in evidence-based practices and contributing to the body of knowledge for serving first-generation students In 2019, the Division of Academic and Student Affairs hosted the inaugural FIU 1st Generation Student Success Conference, in collaboration with the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities, with the mission of being the premier source of evidence-based practices, professional development, and knowledge creation for the higher education community to advance the success of first-generation students.

Ensuring first-generation student success is woven into every FIU initiative, service and program and it is intrinsic to our identity. Empowering first-generation students is not the role, vision or mission of one unit but it is the charge of the FIU community.

To learn more about Florida International University and it’s first-generation student initiatives, click here.