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Campus News / News

Rockford University’s New Regents First Program Helps First-Generation College Students Succeed

09/01/2021 11:00 am

ROCKFORD, Ill. (Sept. 1, 2021) – Rockford University, the region’s leading private four-year educational institution, welcomed its first cohort of students this fall in the new Regents First program, which aims to recruit, support, and retain first-generation college students.

Open to incoming freshmen, Regents First takes what can be a challenging experience for anyone – enrolling in a four-year university – and boosts support for students who are working to become the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. Eight students are enrolled in the first cohort.

The students are paired with a designated financial aid coach, as well as a college life skills coach who will meet with them regularly throughout the academic year. Regents First participants receive a stipend to support the purchase of course materials both semesters of their first year.

Individuals also are paired with a peer mentor – someone who also is a first-generation college student who can be a motivating force and help build resilience during the first year of school through weekly check-ins and study group sessions.

While the program is designed to ensure and increase student retention for first-generation college students at Rockford University, the ultimate goal is college completion.

“I have emphasized for these eight folks that I will have a tissue box with me at commencement while I watch as each one walks across the stage,” said Dr. Karen Walker, dean of academic support at the Center for Learning Strategies. “They may change jobs or majors over the course of four years or so. But the ultimate goal is to see them become the first in their family to obtain a bachelor’s degree – and not only start it but finish it.”

The eight students come from diverse backgrounds. Many relocated to Rockford with their families in recent years and are eager to explore life on campus.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting new people and experiencing new things in my major,” said 17-year-old Miami Roby, a Rockford resident who’s majoring in musical theater. “In middle school and high school, I never felt like I was part of things or fit in. After coming here and meeting my adviser, I already feel like I belong, like I’m actually going to grow here. I’m excited for that.”



Rockford University is a private four-year, co-educational institution founded in 1847 offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in traditional liberal arts and professional fields. The University offers more than 80 majors, minors, and concentrations, including the bachelor’s degree completion program for a B.S. in Management Studies. Through its Graduate Studies department, degrees are extended to include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), and Master of Education in Urban Education, (M.Ed.). Rockford University is home to one of only 11 Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) chapters in Illinois, the most prestigious honor society in the United States. Named by The Princeton Review as a Best Midwestern College and is a U.S. News & World Report Best Midwest Regional University, Rockford University currently serves approximately 1,250 full-and part-time students.