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 continued success of this event, COE and the Center now partner to make this celebration an annual event.

On November 8, we encourage colleges, universities, corporations, non-profits, and K-12 schools to celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty, staff, and alumni in any and every way possible. Get creative! In previous years, institutions and organizations have 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 Celebration Day as a galvanizing force across your institution or organization. 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 your communities to better understand the systemic barriers plaguing higher education and the supports necessary for this important and resilient population to continue thriving.


Check back soon for more information on sharing your 2023 First-Generation College Celebration Plans

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

Since 2017, institutions, corporations, non-profits, and K-12 schools from across the nation have celebrated first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni on November 8 and highlighted the important contributions made within their 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 and organizations, November 8 events have grown to week-long, or even month-long celebrations. We hope you are also planning a celebration for 2022! Below, you will find profiles from many of the institutions and organizations who have hosted celebration events to spark your planning and creativity. Please share your plans with us so that we may amplify your efforts.

2022 Celebration Plans

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

National Event

The 2022 National First-Generation College Celebration Virtual Event featured a panel, moderated by Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, discussing the first-generation adult learner identity, sharing their unique experiences and offering insight into tools and resources. Panelists include Dr. Kelly Brochu, Matt Donovan, and Dr. Vanessa Sheared.

View the recoding below and share widely.

To elevate the National First-Generation College Celebration, the Center and COE launched the first Virtual Event in 2020. Check out the past celebrations!

2021 Virtual Event

Grant Opportunity

In support of the 2022 First-Generation College Celebration, the Center and Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) are pleased to award Grant Opportunity funds to 50 institutions and organizations! These funds extend an institution's or an organization's ability to reach more first-generation students, engage more members of their community, launch new programs or events, or provide additional services surrounding the First-Generation College Celebration. Eligible institutions and organizations received up to $500.00 in unrestricted funds. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding recipients!

Review the 2022 Grant Opportunity Recipients


Congratulations to the past Grant Opportunity recipients.

Bipartisan Resolution

Led by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), a bipartisan team of Senators helped steer S. Res. 437 to passage under unanimous consent, helping further to solidify the importance of November 8 as a day to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of first-generation college students. To view the Senate resolution text and list of 19 bipartisan cosponsors, click here.

Senate Resolution

Past Celebrations

2021 Celebration Plans