Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Innovative Strategies to Support Completion

Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Innovative Strategies to Support Completion
Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Innovative Strategies to Support Completion


Presentation Slideshow

Additional Resources

AYPF Webinar: Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Technology to Complement Advising for College Access and Success 

AYPF Webinar: Moving the Needle for First Generation College Students: Comprehensive Advising from College Access to Success

AYPF Video: First in My Family, Supporting First-Generation College Students 

Webinar Overview

Nearly one-third of college-going students each year are first-generation. While there have been strides made in the number of first-generation students attending college, research has demonstrated that first-generation students graduate a lower rate (40%) than their  peers whose parents attended college (55%).

In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis placed on strategies to support student completion. This webinar shared innovative strategies at the institutional and state level to improve of the number of first-generation college students earning a postsecondary credential. Presenters included:  Austin Buchan, Executive Director, College Forward Krissy DeAlejandro, Executive Director, tnAchieves Ben Walizer, Project Director, Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Georgia State University, and Fellow, University Innovation Alliance.

Presenter Biographies

Austin Buchan serves as Executive Director at College Forward, where he is responsible for executing the organization’s strategic plan and long-term vision. Austin joined College Forward in 2010, where he developed and managed program services for first-generation college students, including launching an on-campus peer mentor program.  Between 2011 and 2013, Austin served as Director of Strategic Growth.  Under his management, the strategic growth team developed a custom-built student information system (now called “CoPilot”), revamped College Forward’s business model, and formalized strategic partnerships with high schools, colleges, and other community-based organizations. Austin is excited to explore strategies with other social entrepreneurs to create lasting change for our nation’s first-generation college students.

Before joining College Forward, Austin directed a non-profit in rural Nicaragua focused on breaking generational poverty through the power of a college degree.  Prior to his work in higher education, Austin managed strategic initiatives for a political consulting firm based in Boston, MA.

Krissy DeAlejandro is the Executive Director of tnAchieves, a scholarship and mentoring program that supports students who attend community or technical colleges.  Launched in 2008, tnAchieves currently serves as the partnering organization for Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise in 85 of 95 counties in the state. Since inception, tnAchieves has worked with nearly 145,000 students and boasts college retention and graduation rates above both state and national averages. The program is also responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining more than 7,500 volunteer mentors to work with its students as they transition from high school to post-secondary.  Prior to her work with tnAchieves, Krissy served as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Knox County Mayor where she focused on workforce development and higher education initiatives.

Krissy has been active in a variety of community and post-secondary organizations including the Girl Scout Council of Southern Appalachian, University of Tennessee’s Chancellor’s Associates, Project Grad, Webb School of Knoxville Board of Trustees, and the Southern Regional Education Board.  She was a 2013 YWCA Tribute to Women honoree; a 2015 Leadership Knoxville graduate, and a Greater Knoxville Business Journal “40 under 40” honoree. She is currently a member of the 2016 Leadership Tennessee class.

Ben Walizer is a Project Director and the UIA Fellow at Georgia State University, providing project management support for grants and projects in the Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success.  He has experience using data to identify at-risk students and improving campus academic support services. He has worked in undergraduate academic support and retention programs, campus student housing, and has served as an instructor of student leadership courses. Ben has earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and a M.Ed. in Counselor Education and Student Affairs from Clemson University. He is also working towards completing his Ph.D. in educational policy and the sociology of education.




The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.