Center for First-generation Student Success welcomes Tennessee's community colleges to the First Scholars Network

The Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, recently welcomed all thirteen community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to its First Scholars Network.

Center for First-generation Student Success

“With this commitment from the Tennessee Board of Regents, every two-year public institution of higher education in Tennessee has shown that first-generation student success is a priority,” said Dr. Sarah E. Whitley, vice president with the Center for First-generation Student Success. “It’s clear that the Board of Regents and the community colleges’ leadership are working hard to ensure that all first-generation students will have access to what they need to earn their degree and take their place in the Tennessee workforce.”

Powered by the Center for First-generation Student Success, the First Scholars Network offers a national model for scaling holistic first-generation student success by engaging and empowering institutions of higher education to radically transform the first-generation student experience, advance academic and co-curricular outcomes, and build more inclusive institutional structures. To date, 349 institutions of higher education have entered the Network, representing 49 states and the District of Columbia. The Center recently announced a commitment to serving over 700 institutions through the Network in the next five years.

“This is a systemwide effort to equip our two-year public institutions with the tools and resources they need to further first-generation student success,” said Dr. Heidi Leming, vice chancellor for student success for the Tennessee Board of Regents. “A large percentage of the more than 70,000 students enrolled in our state’s community colleges identify as first-generation students, and it’s our goal to give each one of these students the support they need to graduate and achieve their career goals.”

“The impact of this partnership with the College System of Tennessee extends beyond Tennessee; it will serve as a model for other states to emulate moving forward,” said Dr. Stephanie Bannister, assistant vice president at the Center for First-generation Student Success. “This is an opportunity for us to partner on system-wide transformation, moving beyond individual institutions, and we are thrilled to get started.”

The 13 community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system comprise all two-year public institutions in Tennessee, each with a specific service area. The system includes: 

  • Chattanooga State Community College
  • Cleveland State Community College
  • Columbia State Community College
  • Dyersburg State Community College
  • Jackson State Community College
  • Motlow State Community College
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Northeast State Community College
  • Pellissippi State Community College
  • Roane State Community College
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College
  • Volunteer State Community College
  • Walters State Community College

To learn more about the First Scholars Network and the Center for First-generation Student Success, visit

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 24 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.