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April 13, 2022

Proven Model for First-Generation Student Success Expands to 10 Additional Four-Year Institutions Nationwide with a Five-Year, $10 Million Investment

16 diverse colleges and universities now form the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, a national network united in its comprehensive, cohort-based support of first-generation students.

St. Francis College is pleased to announce the expansion of the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, which includes 10 new campuses nationwide: Bates College, Brown University, Centre College, Saint Mary’s College (IN), The Ohio State University, University of California-Riverside, University of Dayton, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, and Washington University in St. Louis. St. Francis College joined the program in 2019 along with Johns Hopkins University, Queens College, and Syracuse University.

Founded in 2008 at the University of Michigan, the Kessler Scholars Program provides a roadmap for first-generation, limited-income students to excel, offering access to critical resources and opportunities across campus, including individualized support and programming designed to foster academic, professional, and personal growth. Students benefit from high-touch, personalized advising from staff and peer mentors and cohort-based activities throughout their college experience, reinforcing their sense of belonging and elevating their unique strengths.

This expansion comes at a time when thousands of first-generation students nationwide have struggled to pursue their higher education aspirations during the pandemic, more likely to experience severe financial hardship, navigate mental health challenges, and confront the digital divide. Re-engaging these students will be vital to the bachelor’s degree attainment needed for a national recovery.

Early results at Michigan indicate that the model can be a potential blueprint for campuses nationwide, with the Kessler Scholars graduating cohort in 2021 attaining a four-year graduation rate of 83%—eight percentage points higher than their first-generation peers (75%) and at pace with their continuing-generation peers (84%).

“As the first in my family to attend college, graduating from the University of Michigan would not have been possible without a tight-knit community of peers, faculty, and staff and robust support,” said Fred Wilpon, a New York-based business executive, real estate developer, former owner of the New York Mets, and founder of the Wilpon Family Foundation. “With today’s expansion of the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, we can now provide hundreds of additional students nationwide with that same level of community and resources they need to achieve their promise.”

Over the next five years, ATI will help amplify this blueprint to its collective of 128 high-graduation-rate colleges and universities. The network will meet regularly to elevate resources, best practices, and strategies that can help advance first-generation student success nationwide.

Read more about the Kessler Scholars Collaborative on their website, or read the write-up in Forbes magazine.

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