Averett University Receives First-gen Forward Designation

Posted on April 1st, 2021 by Matt Bell

National honor for commitment to first-generation student success

Averett University has recently received the First-gen Forward designation by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, which recently announced the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort.

This designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students – students who are the first in their immediate family to attend college. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences and a first look at the Center’s research and resources.

Almost half of Averett’s entering class are first-generation college attendees. Nearly 100% of Averett students receive for some form of financial assistance, with 43% of the student body qualifying this year for Pell grants.

“Averett University has a long history of providing higher education to underserved populations,” said Averett University President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks. “It is our continued mission to increase access to higher education for a broader, more diverse segment of the population, like first-generation students, and to provide all entering students with an equal opportunity to succeed in college.”

Averett offers a vast network of resources specific to first-generation students, including:
• A vibrant mentorship program, in which 57 self-identified first-generation faculty and staff connect with first-generation students and offer guidance on navigating college life;
• An annual first-generation recognition celebration, during which T-shirts and swag are given;
• Financial assistance and guidance to first-generation students during the graduation process, including a desire to acknowledge first-generation graduates during the ceremony by having them stand for applause; and
• A range of additional programming specifically for first-generation students, including tutoring services, career readiness tools, interviewing skills, and other student success programs.
Additionally, Averett was ranked by U.S. News & World Report in 2020 and 2021 among the top regional colleges in the south for social mobility, measured by how well schools graduated students who received federal Pell Grants – grants typically given to students with lower family incomes.

“As a first-generation college student myself, I remember being clueless at times among my peers whose families were able to help them understand things like course registration, financial aid, choosing majors and the soft skills needed to be successful in the classroom, said Dr. Billy Wooten, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness at Averett. “I am so proud to be at an institution that not only cares about our first-generation students, but that also encourages faculty and staff to continue to grow our programming to serve them.”

As a First-gen Forward Institution, interested faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop slated for early-June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting and more.

“The Center is so pleased to welcome Averett University into the 2021-22 First-gen Forward cohort. Through the application process, it was evident that Averett is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies that foster an environment of success for this important population,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, assistant vice president, Center for First-generation Student Success.

“With the addition of the 2021-22 cohort, First-gen Forward Institutions contribute to a national movement of two- and four-year institutions dedicated to advancing the success of first-generation students; redefining student success as a movement. We commend Averett University for their leadership and look forward to witnessing continued progress throughout their participation,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA.