The disruptions at colleges and universities across the nation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have  brought new burdens, from economic and logistical concerns to the interruption of long-held dreams, to students who were the first in their family to go to college. A number of the Boston College students who remain on campus following the cessation of in-person classes are first-generation students who, for varying reasons, were unable to return home.

Fortunately, Boston College has a strong track record in supporting first-generation students, and in fact has recently been named a First-gen Forward Institution, as part of a national recognition program acknowledging colleges and universities for demonstrated commitment to first-gen student success.

First-Gen Forward logo

The University was among a cohort of 77 institutions to be designated by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation.

BC’s designation as a First-gen Forward Institution will afford select faculty and staff multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students.

An average of approximately 260 first-generation undergraduate students have enrolled at BC over the past five years. During the last decade, the percentage of first-generation students in the freshman class has ranged from nine to 11 percent.

The First-gen Forward initiative at the University will be led by Learning to Learn, the institutional voice for first-generation students. Learning to Learn, along with the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center, the Career Center, the Montserrat Coalition of University Mission and Ministry, BC Athletics, and faculty and staff partners, provides support for first-generation students through a number of programs and services that promote retention and graduation.  

The First-gen Forward designation validates the commitment of Boston College to first-generation students, according to University administrators.

“Learning to Learn, like so many groups and individuals on campus, works diligently to help ensure the success of our first-gen students,” said Learning to Learn Director Rossanna Contreras-Godfrey. “We are gratified that these efforts are being recognized, and delighted to be among the 77 institutions sharing in this recognition.”

Added Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Akua Sarr, “It's an honor that Boston College is being designated as a First-gen Forward Institution. This privilege is a testament to the University's commitment to students who identify as first-generation, and to the dedication of the staff who support these students in the Learning to Learn Office. I commend them for their work and for this distinction."

As a First-gen Forward Institution, Boston College will send representatives to the First-gen Forward Workshop scheduled for this summer and participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. The institution will also be required to share institutional data, detail campus-wide efforts to support first-generation students, and demonstrate institutional buy-in from leadership.

University Communications | April 2020