UofM Receives $1.4 Million in Local and National Private Support to Enhance First-Generation Students' Experience

January 28, 2019 - The University of Memphis received a total of $1.4 million in private support from the Suder Foundation and an anonymous donor to create the Office of First Generation Student Success (OFGSS) and establish an endowed scholarship fund for first-generation students. The OFGSS will expand existing programs for first-generation students and create new programs in collaboration with partners across campus.

"The success of our students is the University's top priority," said UofM President M. David Rudd. "We have studied the unique challenges of the growing number of first-generations students on our campuses, and are committed to providing them with the resources they need to succeed. The remarkable commitments from the Suder Foundation and other donors will benefit thousands of students and support them in earning their degrees."

First-generation students are the first in their family to go to college. They often face obstacles that their peers whose parents attended college do not. The average national graduation rate for first-generation students is 34 percent compared to 55 percent for the general undergraduate student population.

"We understand how important holistic support is for first-generation students and are thrilled to help the UofM establish the OFGSS as a strategic, innovative approach to serving first-generation students," said Diane Schorr, executive director of the Suder Foundation. "We are committed to investing in initiatives like the OFGSS that address student development on the personal, academic and professional levels."

In 2008, Eric and Deborah Suder launched the Suder Foundation to support and establish initiatives that dramatically increase the graduation rates of first-generation students. The foundation's signature scholarship and support program, First Scholars, launched at the University of Memphis in 2012.

Thirty-five percent of undergraduate students at the UofM self-identify as first-generation students, compared to a national average of 17 percent at four-year universities. Programs such as First Scholars and the Simon Scholars currently provide scholarship and programmatic support to UofM first-generation students.