What is 1stGen@Iowa?

The 1stGen@Iowa initiative aims to bring awareness to campus and work towards a strategic, collective approach to celebrating and supporting first-generation students. While the First-Generation Task Force serves as the foundational basis of this important initiative, the movement is campus-wide and relies on institutional commitment from key leaders and multiple campus partners for success. 

The initiative seeks to inform and educate the campus community, support first-generation students in their academic and career endeavors, and ensure that students ultimately succeed at The University of Iowa.

What Does "First-Generation" Mean at The University of Iowa?

At the University of Iowa, first-generation students are those students who do not have a parent(s) or guardian(s) who completed a four-year degree. Compared to their continuing generation peers, first-generation students may face a unique set challenges in their college transition and completion efforts, and often benefit from additional support of faculty and staff who are dedicated to their success. In addition, first-generation students share many common personal assets that also contribute to their success. The University of Iowa aims to celebrate these assets and help students learn to utilize them in order to reach their full potential and realize their academic goals.

Why 1stGen@Iowa?

Historical Information

The University of Iowa has launched a variety of initiatives aimed at supporting student success over the last decade. During this time when there have been few other structural changes to the undergraduate experience, and entering classes have increased in size by nearly one-third, University of Iowa retention and graduation rates have steadily increased. However, persistence and completion rates for first-generation students have changed relatively little during this time, and in fact, continues to lag behind their continuing generation peers. For example, in Fall 2017, the enrollment status of Fall 2016 entering students who identified as continuing generation students noted that 88.19% of these students were retained, compared to 79.62% of first-generation students. Evidence such as this contributed to the institution’s decision to focus its recent HLC Quality Initiative on supporting students in groups that have been shown to be at greatest risk of not completing a degree, which included first-generation students.


Nearly 30 distinct campus initiatives have been identified that support the success of students in groups known to be at risk. This network of programs reflects both grassroots and centralized initiatives, informed by institutional research, examination of peer practices, and national studies of student success in higher education. Some of these initiatives were already in place prior to the Quality Initiative, some were launched to expand on these initiatives or move into new areas they did not address, and some are still being designed or piloted.


The HLC initiative was characterized by cross-campus collaborations at each stage of planning and implementation. During Year One, the Provost’s Office created a Student Success Task Force, a group of 35 faculty, staff, and administrators, to more extensively examine curricular and other structural challenges which may be posing obstacles to undergraduate persistence and success.  During Year Two, among other things, the First-Generation Task Force was established to build on the work of the Year One Task Force and to identify faculty and staff practices that more effectively support at-risk students. 


Click here to read more about the First-Generation Task Force and the role this important group has in the 1stGen@Iowa initiative.