Catholic Higher Education and First Generation Students

In 2012, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the U.S. Department of Education found that almost a third of current undergraduates are considered first-generation college students. Driven by their faith-based mission, ACCU member institutions have developed a breadth of resources for first-generation students, as well as the administration, faculty, and staff who work with them.

In the Summer 2015 issue of Update, ACCU featured several success stories of Catholic colleges and universities’ service towards their first-generation and low-income students. ACCU also has dedicated a webpage to share information on serving first-generation students. Here are a few examples of programs ACCU members have instituted:

  • St. Mary’s College (CA) offers a High Potential Sphere of Success program, a federally funded TRIO Student Support Services Program, which is designed to cultivate the success of first-generation and low-income students through leadership development, peer mentoring, and financial support.
  • Silver Lake College of the Holy Family (WI) has adopted the Work College model, where all incoming residential freshman or transfer students will be required to work ten hours per week in a field related to their coursework, in exchange for $2,800 tuition credit per year.
  • Notre Dame de Namur University (CA) supports its first-generation students through a Bill Hannon Foundation grant for their Gen 1 program, which provides financial and academic support, as well as mentoring.

Read more examples on the ACCU website.

What does your college or university do to support first generation and low income students? Let us know! 

Laudato Si Release: Act

Earlier today, Pope Francis released his long-awaited encyclical letter, Laudato Si.  We at ACCU are sharing resources and best practices to help our campuses pray for commitment to care for creation, learn about the encyclical and our call to stewardship, and act upon our beliefs to work for the common good.


ACCU member institutions have acted upon their call to care for creation through a number of sustainability and environmental justice initiatives.

  • The Catholic Climate Covenant, with support from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, have produced Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration (PDF; 3MB).  Through mission-based initiatives, the Toolkit offers practical suggestions to inspire individuals, families, schools, parishes, and dioceses to follow the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change’s St. Francis Pledge.
  • 29 Catholic colleges and universities have taken the St. Francis Pledge, sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant, committing to living out the value of care for creation through reflection, action, and advocacy.  These campuses include: Aquinas College (MI), Cabrini College, Chestnut Hill College, College of Saint Benedict, Creighton University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Lewis University, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette University, Mercyhurst University, Mount St. Joseph University, Neumann University, Rosemont College, Saint Anselm College, Saint Francis University, Saint John’s University (MN), Saint Joseph’s College (IN), Saint Mary’s College of California, Saint Michael’s College, Salve Regina University, Seattle University, St. Thomas More College, Stonehill College, University of Notre Dame, University of Portland, Villanova University, Viterbo University, and Xavier University.
  • The Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University lives out a core tenet of the university mission.  The Center has undertaken a number of initiatives, including supporting faculty and student research through fellowships.  Dr. Trileigh Tucker, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Seattle University, and one of CEJS’s first Faculty Fellows, developed a teaching resource on environmental justice, compiling syllabi, assessment methods, and foundational documents used frequently in courses on environmental justice.
  • Benedictine University in Illinois has received a $46,000 Food Scrap Composting Revitalization and Advancement Program (F-SCRAP) grant from the state to allow for the diversion of food scraps generated in the campus cafeteria and other buildings.
  • In spring 2015, Cabrini College held a conference, “Faith, Climate, and Health”, to examine how climate change affects the health of the most vulnerable citizens.
  • At the University of Portland, professors Dr. Russell Butkus and Dr. Steven Kolmes, teach a course entitled “Theology in Ecological Perspective”, exploring Catholic and Christian teaching and environmental science.

Read more ways ACCU member campuses have undertaken sustainability initiatives on the ACCU website.  Check back frequently as we will post new updates and ways that ACCU campuses react to the Laudato Si to the blog!