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North Central College
Private Higher Education
Date Approved

Of the 2,700 undergraduate students at North Central College, 43% identify as first-generation students, a significant population compared to the national average of 17% at four-year universities. Defined as neither parent having a four-year college degree, first-generation students are less likely than their peers to graduate in four years, so in 2014, North Central launched Cardinal First, a program that provides resources, support, and a community for our first-generation students. Within the first year of the program, 97% of first-generation students who elected to participate in Cardinal First persisted to their second year, significantly higher than the 78% college-wide first-year retention rate. With modest funds, we have built an effective program model and now seek grant funding to expand the Cardinal First community and programming, specifically through building partnerships with parents of Cardinal First participants, Cardinal First alumni, and local high schools. A long-term goal is to establish Cardinal First as a model for liberal arts colleges across the country through work with national platforms like the Center for First-Generation Student Success, which has recently named North Central as one of just seven “First Forward Advisory Institutions” in the nation.