About First-gen Forward

The Center for First-generation Student Success launched in June 2017, 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. In continuing this mission, the Center launched First-gen Forward, the nation's first recognition program acknowledging higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.

The 2020-21 First-gen Forward cohort can be viewed here! These 77 First-gen Forward Institutions join the 80 First-gen Forward Institutions from the inaugural cohort. Collectively, they represent a community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the United States.

The application process for the 2021-22 cohort will launch in the fall 2021. Stay tuned!

Eligibility Requirements

  • Be an active, accredited, two-year or four-year institution of higher education, and located within the United States;

  • Be a NASPA Institutional member and the primary institutional contact must be a professional member;

  • Secure senior leadership support and commitment to participation;

  • Designate a minimum of two currently employed faculty and/or staff to serve as the institutional representatives to the program (additional faculty/staff are welcome to participate in programming);

  • Commit to fulfilling the requirements outlined in the requirements of participation section below.

Benefits of Participation

Participants from selected institutions will have opportunities to engage with a national cohort of institutions as well as a regional community of colleagues who are in geographic proximity to their campus. Selected First-gen Forward Institutions will:


  • Receive public identification as a First-gen Forward Institution on the Center's website and at select NASPA conferences;
  • Receive an official designation logo for use with institutional online and print materials;
  • Receive a template for a campus press release announcing your institution selection;
  • Receive an official notification letter to institution leadership from NASPA President, Dr. Kevin Kruger, celebrating this achievement;
  • Benefit from deeper engagement in the 16,000+ member NASPA network;
  • Engage with a broad cohort and regional communities of peer institutions willing to consult on challenges, share resources and evidence-based practices and celebrate program successes;
  • Engage in professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base;
  • Receive reports and feedback through the annual report process;
  • Receive an institutional feature blog on the Center's website;
  • Receive first-look access to new Center reports and advance knowledge on first-generation student success;
  • Have an opportunity to advance to Advisory status after two active years.

Requirements of Participation for 2020-2021

First-gen Forward institutions must:
  • Send at least two faculty or staff members to the First-gen Forward Workshop (June 28, 2020) ahead of the 2020 NASPA First-generation Student Success Conference (June 29 - July 1, 2020; Baltimore, MD)
    • This half-day, workshop will be free to those from selected First-gen Forward institutions and will serve as the official kickoff for the 2020-21 First-gen Forward cohort. Participants will meet other First-gen Forward participants, learn more about the Center and First-gen Forward program, engage in professional development, hear from keynote speakers, complete goal setting, and gather with assigned small groups to plan monthly calls.
      • The First-gen Forward Workshop has no registration fee; selected First-gen Forward institutions will be given a discount code to register for this workshop.
      • First-gen Forward Institutions will receive a small travel stipend to offset costs.
    • Those participating in the First-gen Forward Workshop are invited to also regsiter for the 2020 NASPA Virtual Conferences on Student Success in Higher Education from June 29 - July 1.
  • Actively participate in one Regional Community call each month (July 2020 - May 2021)
    • Each First-gen Forward Institution will be placed into a Regional Community based upon geographic location for monthly calls. There will be approximately eight calls (8) as some months will be skipped due to holidays and conferences.
      • Topics for calls will be suggested by the Center but also determined within the Regional Community.
  • Complete a goal-setting exercise and brief annual report
    • Using a provided template, First-gen Forward institutions will engage in a goal-setting exercise during the June workshop to outline both goals for program participation as well as advancing first-generation initiatives within their campus community.
      • At the end of the First-gen Forward annual cycle, the template will again be completed to identify progress toward goals. These documents will serve as great tools to share with senior leaders on your progress!
  • Attend a minimum of three (3) virtual events (Center Live Briefing or OnDemand)
    • Each month, the Center offers new live and recorded professional development opportunities on topics specific to first-generation student success. A look at current offerings can be found here. First-gen Forward institutions are asked to select a minimum of three live or on demand events to participate in during the 2020-2021 cycle. New content will be added regularly and participation is at your convenience.
      • This can be personal professional development for those representing an institution or can be used to host gatherings for faculty and staff to offer education on first-generation topics. These events make great brown-bag lunch gatherings! All First-gen Forward institutions will receive discounted pricing for programs.
  • Complete one blog about first-generation institutional initiatives or a relevant topic
    • Each First-gen Forward institution will be provided a template to craft a short blog on institutional first-generation initiatives or a relevant first-generation topic. The blog schedule will be shared with First-gen Forward institutions during the workshop in June.
      • Blogs may include text, photos, videos, audio, etc, and will be featured on the Center's website and across social platforms. These become useful promotional pieces for your institution.
Optional Opportunity

First-gen Forward institutions are invited to attend the 2021 NASPA Annual Conference (March 20 - March 24) in Kansas City, MO, for cohort meetings and professional development.

Continued Engagement

First-gen Forward institutions who satisfy participation requirements for the 2020-2021 cycle will be invited to renew their status as a First-gen Forward institution. Continued participation allows for new or different faculty and staff participants and requires attendance at the June First-gen Forward Workshop, completion of the goal-setting exercise and annual report, and engagement in monthly calls. Unless desired, there is no requirement to continue with live briefings or on demand professional development or to complete additional blogs. After two successful cycles in the program, First-gen Forward iInstitutions are eligible to remain at the same status or apply for Advisory status.

More information for the 2021-2022 cycle will be updated and provided to selected First-gen Forward institutions in the coming months.

Application Overview

This is an in-depth application process, asking you to share institutional data, detail campus-wide efforts to support first-generation students, as well as demonstrate institutional buy-in from leadership. The eligibility requirements state that institutions must be a NASPA Institutional member and the primary institutional contact must be a professional member. The application includes steps to determine institutional and profesional member status. Please be prepared to confirm elibility.

Complete the application to the best of your ability but please understand that it is not a requirement for your institution to be actively pursuing each area to be considered for selection. We look forward to learning more about the great efforts you and your colleagues are leading!

The Application is Closed.

The First-gen Forward application is closed. Soon after the close of the application, the review committee will begin the selection process. Institutions will be notified by late-January, and notification will be sent via email, to the primary contact as well asa president or senior leader included in the application.

Outside the United States?

If you and your institution are located outside of the United States but you interested in learning more about the First-gen Forward recognition program, please email the Center.

Leadership Opportunities

Selected institutions will enter the program with the First-gen Forward Institution or Advisory Institution. After two successful cycles, First-gen Forward Institutions will be eligible to apply for First-gen Forward Advisory Institution status. This designation signals a continued commitment to first-generation student success and allows participants to become Regional Community leaders and offer leadership support to new First-gen Forward Institutions. This designation also comes with additional recognition for the selected campus.

An institution is also welcome to remain a First-gen Forward Institution beyond two years, without applying for Advisory Institution status, to continue professional development with fewer requirements.

Opportunities for a third level of First-gen Forward leadership are under development and will be announced as the program is established.

2019-20 Cohort

First-gen Forward is an institutional designation, once you become a First-gen Forward Institution or First-gen Forward Advisory Institution, that designation remains as long as your institution is actively advancing first-generation efforts and program requirements are being met. As part of the 2019-20 First-gen Forward cohort, there is NO need to reapply to First-gen Forward.

2019-20 First-gen Forward Cohort
  • 2020 NASPA Annual Conference - First-gen Forward Workshop (half-day)

    Sunday, March 29 from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm • Grand Salon - 1, JW Marriott

    This optional workshop is dedicated to the 2019-20 First-gen Forward cohort and you must apply the appropriate discount code to register. This free half-day facilitated workshop offers a unique professional development opportunity, taking a deeper look into content area surrounding first-generation student success. Additionally, participants will begin the annual review process, including reviewing institution goals, assessing progress, as well as exploring possible next steps.

  • 2020 First-generation Student Success Conference - First-gen Forward Workshop (full-day)

    Sunday, June 28 • tentatively starting at 10:00 am (local time)

    This full-day workshop will serve as the kick-off event for the 2020-21 First-gen Forward cohort and is an optional workshop for the 2019-20 First-gen Forward cohort. This workshop will include a unique professional opportunity specifically tailored to the 2019-20 cohort. Please be sure to apply the appropriate discount code.

  • Continued Requirements

    The First-gen Forward requirements for year two will adjust slightly and will be shared toward the end of the academic year.

  • Leadership Opportunity

    After two successful cycles, First-gen Forward Institutions will be eligible to apply for First-gen Forward Advisory Institution status. This designation signals a continued commitment to first-generation student success and allows participants to become Regional Community leaders and offer leadership support to new First-gen Forward Institutions. This designation also comes with additional recognition for the selected campus.

    Further details will be shared toward the end of the academic year.