Florida State University receives national recognition for first-generation student success

Last month, CARE students participated in the annual National First-Generation College Celebration. FSU continues to earn national recognition for its CARE program and first-generation college student support and resources. (Brittany Mobley, Undergraduate Studies)

Florida State University has been recognized by a national organization for its enduring commitment to supporting first-generation college students.  

FSU was designated a First Scholars Institution by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the Suder Foundation that helps higher education institutions transform experiences and outcomes for first-generation students.  

FSU was announced as one of 15 new schools across the country named a First Scholars Institution, chosen for “actively working to establish an environment where direct student supports for first-generation students can be established, scaled and sustained,” according to the Center for First-generation Student Success.  

About 25% of the FSU undergraduate population identifies as a first-generation student, and much of the first-generation student support operations are managed by the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE).  

“We are so grateful that our hard work to support our wonderful first-generation students at FSU continues to gain national recognition,” said DeOnte Brown, director of CARE and assistant dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Participating in the First Scholars Network gives us access to customized resources and exclusive data that will bring our proven success to the next level and help even more students as well as the institution as a whole.”  

First Scholars Institutions have access to specialized data, guidance and expert analysis to help propel their mission to strengthen first-generation student success across their institutions.  


CARE boasts a vast support system that includes a robust suite of resources, workshops, dedicated staff and faculty members, a building with study spaces and a computer lab, a living-learning community and more.  

This year, CARE expanded its support and its commitment to provide scholarships and holistic resources to every incoming first-generation student and Federal Pell Grant recipient by expanding its QUEST Scholars Program for first-generation students and launching the Illuminate Program, which serves Pell Grant recipients. 

“First-generation students have been fundamental to FSU and will continue to be,” said Joe O’Shea, associate provost and dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Earning a designation as a First Scholars Institution is a reflection of our commitment to our students and empowers us to serve them in an even more meaningful way.” 

‘There’s nothing like CARE’

Kensia Saint-Hilaire, a third-year FSU student studying computer science, didn’t consider that she was a first-generation college student until she started filling out applications and noticed the term. 

Kensia Saint-Hilaire (right) poses with fellow CARE student Irma Alvarado during their time serving as CARE ambassadors to incoming students in summer 2023.

“I had to ask so many people what that meant,” she said. That was her first clue that being a first-generation college student might set her apart from her peers.

Saint-Hilaire looked for a school that could provide an extra layer of support, since her parents were from Haiti and hadn’t graduated from college. FSU stood out for its CARE program, and she said she chose well.

“I feel like being at FSU through CARE, there are no boundaries,” she said. “CARE has been such a big part of my college experience, and when I talk to my friends who go to other schools, there’s nothing like CARE.”  

Saint-Hilaire noticed that her FSU friends who weren’t first-generation students were seeking enrichment activities beyond the classroom, such as internships and student clubs. Thanks to the CARE network and support system, she was able to do so as well and has already secured an internship next summer at Citibank in Tampa. 

“A lot of CARE students have the drive to be the best they can be,” she said. “It’s an environment where iron sharpens iron. Everybody is trying to be their best and help each other out.”  

For more information, visit care.fsu.edu.