MISSOULA – The University of Montana’s commitment to serving and supporting all who seek higher education is deeply embedded in its mission. This devotion goes deepest when it comes to the one in four Grizzlies who proudly identify as the first in their family to attend college.
To salute these special individuals UM will host a number of events in recognition of National First-Generation Student Day Wednesday, Nov. 8 This national recognition has its roots in the Higher Education Act of 1965, which increased federal funding and resources for universities to provide financial assistance to lower- and middle-income families, and more broadly, expanded access to higher education for America’s diverse student body.
“We recognize the promise and resilient journeys of students who are the first in their family to attend college,” said Leslie Webb, UM vice provost for Student Success and Campus Life. “There are invisible barriers for most first-gen students that include self-esteem, adjustment to college, anxiety and networks of support.”
Webb noted that this fall’s enrollment included 2,555 first-gen students, with 75% being Montana residents. Some 64% are undergrads.
In a larger effort to be Montana’s college of choice for first-generation students, Webb said, UM has made significant investments to ensure first-generation students succeed while on campus.
University programming that supports first-generation students include:
- TRiO Student Support Services, which provides academic advising, tutoring, career advising, financial aid and mentoring for UM first generation students.
- Montana 10 is a state-funded scholarship program to ensure first- generation students have the financial support, community and academic support needed to achieve educational goals.
- A comprehensive new student orientation features the Big Sky Experience. The program organizes students into small groups and connects them with activities on campus and across town to help build community and support among students. It also includes a special site activity hosted by TRiO with first-gen students in mind.
- UM’s new innovative approach to financial aid has further helped reduce hurdles to accessing a college education. The Grizzly Promise, launched in 2022, provides in-state students a tuition-free education if they come from a family earning less than $50,000 annually. The University does this by combining available scholarships, grants, waivers and private philanthropic support.
“If you’re a UM alumni, student, parent or partner that is first-gen, please share your story with students on social media today and tag @umontana,” Webb said. “It’s important to make visible our inclusive, supportive community by celebrating your individual journey and outcome of navigating the world of academia. Actively reach out and support fist-gen students in your networks.”
UM alumni and friends are passionate about helping first-gen students achieve their education goals. Donor gifts provided a record-breaking $8 million in life-changing scholarships this academic year. Last year, 2,060 UM students, including first-gen students with need for financial aid, received support from University of Montana Foundation scholarship funds.
Those interested in helping first-gen students who may need financial support to attend and earn a degree at UM, should visit www.SupportUM.org/First-Gen to learn more and give.
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.