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, 2020, 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 previous years, 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.


Share your 2020 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

For the past four years 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 2020! 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 us, too!

2020 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

In support of the 2020 First-Generation College Celebration, the Center, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), and The Suder Foundation continue to offer the Grant Opportunity! These funds are intended to extend an institution's ability to reach more first-generation 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.

We are pleased to announce the 31 recipients for their efforts to raise awareness and celebrate the accomplishments of first-generation students, staff, and faculty.

2020 Grant Recipients

In 2019, the grant supported 24 institutions’ efforts to raise awareness and celebrate the accomplishments
of first-generation students, staff, and faculty.

Here is the press release summarizing institutions' celebrations.

Virtual First-Generation College Celebrations

National First-Generation College Student Celebration

Join DJ Faro and your first-generation college student peers and champions for this National First-Generation College STUDENT Celebration on Thursday, November 5, 2020 from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm ET. Brought to you by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success, this will be a fun-filled hour of music, trivia, and prizes.

Engage with us on social media using hashtag #CelebrateFirstGen2020 to join forces with and show love to the first-gen community. Be sure to follow @COETalk and @FirstgenCenter on Twitter!

View the Recording

The Center for First-generation Student Success and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) welcome you to participate in the Joint Virtual First-Generation College Celebration slated for Friday, November 6, 2020 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm ET.

This joint celebration will kick-off with opening remarks from Sarah E. Whitley, Ph.D., assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success and Maureen Hoyler, J.D., president, Council for Opportunity in Education, as well as feature a panel discussion about the history of the first-generation student definition, utilizing an asset-based lens. You do not want to miss this virtual celebration. If you have not already be sure to share your institution's 2020 plans.

We look forward to celebrating with you on Friday, November 6, 2020 from 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm ET!


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!

Past Celebrations

2019 Institution Highlights