Center for First-Generation Student Success, First Forward Institution Logo

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation, recently announced their inaugural cohort of First Forward Institutions.  The First Forward designation recognizes institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students. Selected institutions receive professional development, community-building experiences, and a first look at the Center’s research and resources. 

The University of Minnesota Crookston has a strong commitment to serving first-generation college students as a part of its broader land-grant mission.  Among the five University of Minnesota System campuses, UMN Crookston serves the highest proportion of students coming families in which their parents have not earned college degrees.  In Fall 2018, 47% of all new incoming students came from families in which their parents had not earned college degrees, which is significantly higher than the national average of 34% and the 25% proportion for the entire University of Minnesota System.  As a part of its commitment to helping first-generation college students achieve their full potential, UMN Crookston is adding new first-year success programs and courses that connect with students well before they arrive on campus and continue through the beginning of the sophomore year.  Additionally, in order to identify and admit more highly qualified first-generation college students, UMN Crookston is transitioning to a test-optional holistic review process beginning in Fall 2019. 

“The Center is so pleased to welcome the University of Minnesota Crookston into our inaugural cohort of First Forward institutions.  Through the application process, it was evident that University of Minnesota Crookston is not only taking steps to serve first-generation students but is prepared to make a long-term commitment and employ strategies for significant scaling and important advances in the future,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, senior director of the Center for First-generation Student Success.  In response, Dr. John L. Hoffman, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Minnesota Crookston noted, “I served on the NASPA Board of Directors when they began collaborating with the Suder Foundation to create this Center and ground its work in data-informed best practices for promoting first-generation college student success. It is quite an honor to be recognized by the Center and to partner with them in the years to come.”

As a First Forward Institution, select faculty and staff will be afforded multiple opportunities to engage with peer and aspirational institutions who are also creating environments that improve the experiences and outcomes of first-generation students. Selected institutions will send representatives to the First Forward Workshop to be held in Orlando in June and will participate in monthly phone calls, virtual professional development, goal setting, blog development, annual reporting, and more. After two successful years in the program, institutions are eligible to apply for the Advisory leadership designation. 

UMN Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause notes, “Never before in the history of the United States has the value of a college degree been greater, but we also know that never before have the costs for a college education been higher.  At University of Minnesota Crookston, we are committed to creating affordable pathways to a high-quality University of Minnesota degree for first-generation students as well as others who too often have seen a college degree as unattainable.” 

“First Forward is an exciting opportunity for University of Minnesota Crookston to join an elite community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge, and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country. We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First Forward cohort and know University of Minnesota Crookston will be a significant contributor,” offered Dr. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA. 

To learn more about first-generation efforts at University of Minnesota Crookston visit  To learn more about the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit

NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Its work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories. Visit for more information.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is 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. Through four strategic priority areas, the Center drives higher education innovation and advocacy for first-generation student success.

About UMN Crookston

One of five campuses that comprise the University of Minnesota System, the University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 35 bachelor's degree programs and 25 minors on campus as well as 16 degree programs entirely online. These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology. With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree. Visit

About UMN

The University of Minnesota System, with campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and the Twin Cities, is driven by a singular vision of excellence. We are proud of our land-grant mission of world-class education, groundbreaking research, and community-engaged outreach, and we are unified in our drive to serve Minnesota.

Story Contact: Shawn Smith - - (218) 281-8414