For release: August 18, 2011
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843.
The University of Memphis has been selected to join a growing network of universities
committed to increasing the graduation rate of first-generation college students through
participation in the First Scholars™ program. Nationally, only 36 percent of first-generation
students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment, compared with
60 percent of their peers whose parents are college graduates. The mission of First
Scholars, a program of the Plano, Texas-based Suder Foundation, is to change these
statistics by providing individualized academic and social support, personal development,
and financial assistance to students whose parents have no education beyond high school.
The First Scholars Program is being launched at the U of M with a grant of $860,000
from the Suder Foundation. Of the 47 universities that competed for the grant this
year, only the University of Memphis and Washington State University were named recipients.
Existing affiliates of the program include The University of Alabama, the University
of Kentucky, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Since 2009, the Suder Foundation
has awarded more than $1.6 million in research planning and operational funds, and
scholarships to its affiliate universities.
“In the fall of 2010, 39 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen at the U of M were
first-generation college students,” said Rosie Phillips Bingham, vice president for
Student Affairs. “Students who are the first in their families to attend college face
extra challenges adjusting to college life, because they and their families lack information
about the college experience. Our number one goal at the University of Memphis is
student success. The First Scholars program will help us achieve that goal by giving
students who may benefit from additional support the help they need to persist and
graduate on time.”
The Suder Foundation funding will allow the University to start the program this fall.
Future grant funds will be used to provide four-year renewable scholarships of $5,000
each to incoming first-time, full-time freshmen whose parents did not attend college.
Students will also benefit from comprehensive academic and social support that will
aid their transition to college and assist them in completing their college degrees.