The University of Memphis received $1.4 million to enhance the experience of first-generation college students, the university announced Monday.
The funds, donated by the Suder Foundation and an anonymous donor, will be used to establish an endowed scholarship fund for first-generation students, those who are the first in their families to attend college.
The new funds will also create the Office of First Generation Student Success (OFGSS) at the U of M. The OFGSS will be tasked with expanding the existing programs for first-generation students, as well as creating new ones.
The average national graduation rate for first-generation students is 34 percent — 21 percent less than the average for the general undergraduate student. At the U of M, 35 percent of undergraduate students identify as first-generation, compared to the national average at four-year universities of 17 percent.
Student success of the university’s top priority, U of M president M. David Rudd said.
“We have studied the unique challenges of the growing number of first-generation students on our campuses, and are committed to providing them with the resources they need to succeed,” Rudd said. “The remarkable commitments from the Suder Foundation and other donors will benefit thousands of students and support them in earning their degrees.”
The Suder Foundation was launched in 2008 by Eric and Deborah Suder to support and establish initiatives that increase graduation rates for first-generation students. The Foundation has offered a scholarship and supportive program for first-generation students since 2012.
“We understand how important holistic support is for first-generation students and are thrilled to help the U of M establish the OFGSS as a strategic, innovative approach to serving first-generation students,” Diane Schorr, executive director of the Suder Foundation, said. “We are committed to investing in initiatives like the OFGSS that address student development on the personal, academic and professional levels.”