In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success launched the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration! Given the overwhelming success of this event in 2017 and 2018, COE and the Center now partner to make this celebration an annual event.

On November 8, 2019, we encourage colleges and universities to celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff on your campus in any and every way possible. Get creative! In 2018, institutions invited speakers and offered programming on first-generation student success, hosted lunch and learn events, kicked off mentoring programs, distributed first-gen swag, featured first-generation students on websites, and more! Consider how you can build relationships with colleagues, involve leadership, and use First-Generation Celebration Day as a galvanizing force across your campus community. If sharing information about your event on social platforms, be sure to tag @COEtalk and @FirstgenCenter, and use the #CelebrateFirstGen!

Join us in advancing an asset-based national narrative on first-generation student experiences and outcomes. Use November 8 to encourage campus communities to better understand the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the supports necessary for this important and resilient population to continue thriving.


We want to know about your 2019 plans!
Click here to submit

Why Celebrate on November 8

November 8 was selected as the date for the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Higher Education Act (“HEA”) emerged out of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. Much like other hallmark legislation of that era, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their educations, the legislation made key investments in institutions of higher education. Additionally, HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates.

Click here to learn more about the Higher Education Act of 1965, the creation of Federal TRIO programs, and the history of National First-Generation College Celebration.

Plan Your Celebration

In 2017 and 2018, institutions from across the nation celebrated first-generation students, faculty, and staff on November 8 and highlighted the important contributions made within the campus communities. From keynote speakers and brown bag lunches to launching awareness campaigns and new strategic plans, the opportunities for celebrations are endless. At many institutions, November 8 events have grown to week-long, or even month-long celebrations. We hope you are also planning a celebration for 2019! Below, you will find profiles from many of the institutions who have hosted celebration events to spark your planning and creativity. Be sure to share your plans with the Center, too!


2018 Institution Highlights

Resources for TRIO Programs

To support the many ways that institutions (who have been granted Federal TRIO funds) are participating in the First-Generation College Celebration, the Council for Opportunity in Education created this resource. Through this resource, you will understand that each TRIO project’s regulations describe three areas where supplies are allowable costs: supplies needed for project recordkeeping, supplies needed for project administration, and supplies needed for participant development, or delivering services to participants. 

Click here to learn more

Grant Opportunity

The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center are pleased to announce a NEW grant opportunity to support your 2019 First-Generation College Celebration plans! The $7500 fund will be distributed across 15+ grants. These funds are intended to extend an institutions ability to serve more students, engage more members of the campus community, launch a new program or event, or to provide additional services surrounding the First-Generation College Celebration. Priority will be given to applications based on creativity, cross-collaboration, student involvement, and a focus on scaling efforts to reach more first-generation students.

The 2019 First-Generation College Celebration Grant Opportunity application is now CLOSED. Thank you for taking the time to submit an application.

Immediately following the close date, the committee will review all submissions and select the recipients. Recipients will be notified by email by late-August. Please note: if awarded the funds, the celebration or event is NOT required to occur on November 8, 2019. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email the Center at

ELIGIBILITY: In order to be eligible for this grant opportunity, institutions must either be an active COE or NASPA Institutional Member. If you are unsure of your membership status, please email Kimberly Jones at about your Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) membership status or Deana Waintraub Stafford at about your NASPA Institutional member status.

IMPORTANT: Recipients of this grant must produce pre-engagement and post-engagement blogs/video/social media posts.
Specific engagement activities will be confirmed with the selected recipients. 

Messages of Support

Members of Congress would like to share a personal message of support and importance in celebrating the contributions of first-generation students and graduates!