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FirstGen Presidential Fellows Program

A critical investment in students who truly reflect the diverse world we live and work in

The higher education landscape in the U.S. is changing fast.

A demographic shift has resulted in fewer college-aged students and, in the next five to 15 years, the majority of them will be first-generation students, meaning their parents or guardians have not completed a bachelor’s degree. This change is even more pronounced in the Northeast.

Bentley must now compete with universities across the country to attract and retain these high-achieving, first-generation students, many of whom are being lured to institutions with much larger endowments that can offer more generous financial aid packages. To meet this challenge, the university has established the FirstGen Presidential Fellows program, a prestigious scholarship for first-generation students who have demonstrated leadership and promise. This program offers a path to a Bentley education that would be otherwise unattainable.

First-generation college students often face more challenges than others.

They are less likely to have guidance from their families about applying, navigating the system or financing their education. Without a role model at home, first-gen students benefit from having a cohort of fellow students who share their experience and advisors who understand the challenges they face.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical for Bentley to invest in students who will broaden perspectives and create a truly diverse environment that reflects the world we will live and work in. Their presence in the Bentley community will enhance the learning experience for all students, and be a force for change in the organizations they join as future leaders.

Bentley is invested in giving them a strong first step.

FirstGen Presidential Fellows begin their Bentley education with university-provided structure and resources, and with a cohort of fellow students who share their experience. They choose from an array of offerings to help them excel academically, professionally and personally; they participate in workshops and other leadership experiences; and, with dedicated faculty advisors, they identify a community-based issue to address using their leadership skills and educational experience gained during their four years at Bentley.

Bentley University was recently named part of the 2021-2022 First-gen Forward cohort, a group of colleges and universities that have demonstrated dedication to improving the experiences and advancing the outcomes of first-generation college students.

Brian Williams ’24

Brian Williams ’24 excelled in high school — graduating sixth in his class — which put him on Bentley’s radar when choosing its first class of FirstGen Presidential Fellows. He liked Bentley’s business curriculum, but knew that attending a predominantly white college would be different than his experience growing up in Windsor, Conn., where Black residents comprise more than a third of the population.

Bentley made it clear how diverse they are and how diverse they want to be. They not only embrace diverse cultures, but they also really celebrate them.”

We believe in these students, and we know what they’re capable of.
Jane Griffin, PhD
Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and Director of the FirstGen Presidential Fellows program

The FirstGen Presidential Fellows Program covers the full estimated cost of attendance. This includes tuition and fees, standard room and board costs, and an allowance for books, supplies and other expenses for four years toward their undergraduate degree.

It takes a village to raise up this special cohort of Falcons.

To learn more and support the program, contact Betsy Whipple at or 781-891-2769.