GV nationally recognized for first-generation student success programs


GVL / Sydney Lim

Lauren Formosa, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University has worked to show its support for first-generation college students throughout their time at the university. This commitment has been recognized on a national level, as GVSU was named to a cohort aimed at improving the experiences and resources available to first-generation college students.

The Center For First-Generation Student Success announced their 53 recipients of the First-Gen Forward Cohort, with GVSU being one of two Michigan institutions selected for the recognition. 

The designation gives the university access to data on best practices for supporting first-generation students as well as program models from other institutions in the cohort.

According to the Center’s official website, the cohort was launched in 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.”

The First-Gen Forward designation, which remains as long as the recognized institution continues to actively improve and advance first-generation programs, reaffirms GVSU’s commitment to supporting first-generation students. 

GVSU currently has eight federally funded TRIO programs that serve both first-generation and low-income students. These programs aim to help them navigate through their college experience. 

The Grand Valley Pledge is also available for low-income students, another resource first-generation students can utilize to make attending a four-year university financially possible.

About 40% of GVSU students are the first in their immediate families to attend a college or university. 

According to Vice President for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, B. Donda Truss, providing support to first-generation students is imperative to their future success.

“When you’re the first in your family to go to college, there are so many pieces that you just haven’t been exposed to,” Truss said. “If we want to impact their trajectory, we’ve got to level the playing field. These programs help to make sure you’re acclimated with the language, make sure you are supported well and really fill those gaps that may be there because you just haven’t been around the college-going experience.”

The TRIO programs are designed to help first-generation students through the academic pipeline. 

Along with programs and resources for current students, the university is also committed to helping prospective students prepare for college admission as well as the post-baccalaureate experience. 

With the First-Gen Forward Cohort, GVSU hopes to strengthen its programs to better assist current and prospective first-generation students, Truss said. 

“I think it’s an outstanding designation because it recognizes the work that we have done but it’s also an outstanding designation because it forces us to be committed to getting even better,” Truss said. “I want us to continue to increase the retention, progression and graduation rates of first-generation students. That’s ultimately what this is about – to help more students who are coming to college and they are the first in their family to do so to be successful.” 

The work Truss and his colleagues are doing with this designation ties into the university’s Strategic Enrollment Strategy Plan, which aims to create equity in student admission and retention.