First Scholars Network: A National Scaling Model

Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network offers a national model for scaling holistic first-generation student success by engaging and empowering higher education institutions to transform the first-generation student experience, advance academic and co-curricular outcomes, and build more inclusive institutional structures.

The First Scholars Network is a journey for higher education institutions serving as the backbone for this national scaling model, bringing together higher education leaders from around the country to share data, model innovations, and scale impact to first-gen student support.

Network Journey

We invite you to explore the four phases that make up the First Scholars Network journey for an institution upon joining the  Network. New institutions will begin in the Network Member phase of the Network with the goal of progressing through the journey to become a Network Champion! 

Join us and let’s get started.


Today’s higher education landscape seeks intentional change to dismantle systemic barriers limiting students’ ability to succeed and thrive. With over half of currently enrolled undergraduate students identifying as first-generation, institution leaders increasingly prioritize first-generation success as imperative to their overall institutional success—progression through the First Scholars Network positions institutions to build-out retention resources to protect return on investment.

Benefits to joining the First Scholars Network:

  • receive public identification as a Network Member institution with the opportunity to advance through subsequent phases;
  • listing on the Center's website and at select NASPA conferences;
  • deeper engagement in the 16,000+ member NASPA network;
  • connection with the Center’s talented team of experts to support your work;
  • engage in professional development that strengthens the campus knowledge base
  • craft an institutional feature blog for the Center's website;
  • receive first-look access to new Center reports to advance knowledge on first-generation student success;
  • engage with peer institutions across the country willing to offer support, share resources and evidence-based practices, and celebrate program successes;
  • set goals and measure progress through the annual report process;
  • access to the Network Member Learning Hub; an online community of practice and resource sharing; and
  • access to professional development e-learning modules to advance institutional efforts. 



Network of Institutions


First Scholars Institutions Map 2023


Our Network currently serves 349 institutions spanning 49 states and the District of Columbia. Our institutions are represented by dedicated professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, address challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students. 

The future is first-gen, and we commit to growing the First Scholars Network. We are excited to welcome the Class of 2024 this fall to our Network!



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

  • Maintain NASPA Institutional membershipif selected for the Network, institutions without a membership will be required to join;

  • Secure cabinet-level leadership support and commitment to participation; and

  • Designate an institution Leadership Team

Each phase of the Network has unique eligibility and programmatic requirements that are detailed in those sections.


For over a decade, The Suder Foundation generously provided scholarship funds to support the holistic success of first-generation college students at select institutions. Along with those scholarship funds, students also participated in the original First Scholars’ comprehensive, cohort-based model designed to provide holistic student support services across their academic career and to prepare them for success post-completion. First Scholars® has evolved to more closely align with the transformational vision of its founders, Eric and Deborah Suder, who have devoted their life’s work to driving systemic innovation for first-generation students.

The First Scholars Network fulfills that vision by creating a multi-faceted approach to student success on a nationally scalable level. With the Center for First-generation Student Success opening in June 2017, the First Scholars Network now serves as the Center’s signature scaling model and the first-of-its-kind specific to the first-generation population.

First Scholars and First-gen Forward are registered trademarks. All materials are proprietary and may not be reproduced.

Join the Network

We invite you to join the First Scholars Network in 2025! To join the First Scholars Network, institutions will apply using the Readiness and Progress Audit. Please review the requirements for the first phase, Network Member, and complete the interest form below:
First Scholars Network Interest Form

institutions who completed the Interest Form will receive the link to the Readiness and Progress Audit to apply to join the Network in early 2025. 

Institutions who submit the Interest Form below will also receive access to our Information Sessions, Readiness and Progress Audit Content Guide, and an E-Learning Module. 

We invite you to utilize the Center's resources, follow us on social media @FirstgenCenter, and reach out at [email protected] with other questions. Thanks for your commitment to serving first-generation students!