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National program to support first-generation students

By The Mercury

Through a highly competitive selection process, Kansas State University has emerged as one of the next program sites for First Scholars, a national program aimed at increasing graduation rates among first-generation students.

As the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree, these students may face unique challenges and require additional support systems, programming and strategies to graduate.

The Suder Foundation, Plano, Texas, awarded the university $850,000 in funding to cover student scholarships and start-up costs to launch First Scholars on campus.

Created five years ago by The Suder Foundation, First Scholars provides first-generation freshmen with tools to understand their strengths and talents and then equips them with mentors, training and leadership opportunities to maximize those talents throughout college and career.

The program will initially help 20 incoming freshmen, with additional freshmen joining each year, all receiving support throughout their time at Kansas State University. Long-term, the success of First Scholars depends upon additional private funding from individuals and organizations.

“The First Scholars program helps Kansas State University maintain affordability and strengthen success for first-generation students, who comprise fully 40 percent of all K-State undergraduates,” said Steven Dandaneau, vice provost for undergraduate studies.

“As the nation’s pioneering land-grant university and as an institution committed via K-State 2025 to strengthening its standing as a leading national research university, we are pleased and honored to join the First Scholars national network of afiliate institutions.”

First Scholars already operates on several large public university campuses: University of Kentucky, University of Alabama, Southern Illinois University, University of Memphis, Northern Arizona University and Washington State University. Data shows program participants outperform the general student body in four-year and six-year graduation rates and grade point average.

The program utilizes many strategies already underway at Kansas State University to engage students and prepare them holistically for long-term success.

“The university’s commitment to student success was evident from our conversations with the planning team and visit to campus,” said Diane Schorr, executive director of The Suder Foundation.

“Kansas State brings unique strengths that will add to the collaborative interactions of our network.”

The mission of The Suder Foundation is to dramatically increase the graduation rate of first-generation college students and to prepare each scholar for a life with self-awareness, success and significance.

To learn more about The Suder Foundation’s First Scholars program, visit Philanthropic contributions to Kansas State University are coordinated by the Kansas State University Foundation.

The foundation staff works with university partners to build lifelong relationships with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students through involvement and investment in the university.

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