Biola received the national honor of being selected as a member of the 2021–22 First-gen Forward cohort by the Center for First-generation Student Success in March. The designation, given to 58 universities and colleges this year, recognizes institutions that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

“I am so excited about this national recognition,” said Tamra Malone, Biola’s chief diversity officer. “When we started [our FirstGen] program a few years ago, we were looking to design a program with best practices in mind, so FirstGen students would not only survive while enrolled but thrive! To receive this national recognition and the network that comes along with it affirms our current work at the national level and will enable us to have access to experts as we continue to build upon the strong momentum and continued growth we have projected for the future.”

A first-generation college student is someone who is in the first generation of his or her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the United States. As of 2020, first generation college students made up 24% of Biola’s incoming class.

Biola launched its FirstGen Scholars program, a scholarship program for first generation college students, in 2016 with 25 students. The program has since grown to include over 150 students. Beyond the scholarship program, Biola also offers mentorship opportunities, community-building experiences and a summer bridge program that seeks to ease the transition into college life and set students up for success. As of 2020, these opportunities have expanded to be available to all first-generation students at Biola, more than 750 students.