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Western welcomes robust group of first-generation students

Business Service: Western Oregon University
By Patti Jo Brooks, Contributing Writer | Photos courtesy of WOU


“Where You Belong.” Western Oregon University sounds a clear message and proudly celebrates their first-generation college students. Enrollment this fall saw nearly half the student body as the first student in their family to attend college. Speaking to the university’s commitment to first-generation students, Western offers a strong support system and targeted initiative programs designed to make sure these students receive all the tools and resources they need.

Founded in 1856, Western is Oregon’s oldest public university and home to roughly 4,000 students, of which approximately seventy percent are Oregon residents. The current fall term shows a five percent enrollment increase over the same period last year, which is the highest increase the college has seen in over a decade. Honoring another milestone of “firsts,” Western celebrates their first-generation college students whose accomplishments have brought them this far. Comprising forty-seven percent of the current student body, these individuals face specific challenges that Western is strategically poised to handle. Many faculty and staff, including Western’s president, Jesse Peters, are first-generation college students, making them uniquely qualified to connect with these students. “I want Western Oregon University to provide all students with the best resources to be successful,” President Jesse Peters expresses, “and it is particularly important to me that first-generation students feel welcomed and supported.”

Among Western’s fifty-plus new Diversity Scholars that were celebrated for the 2023-2024 academic year, a significant number were first-generation college students. These celebrated students were recognized for their academic excellence and commitment to diversity. Their determination to achieve a successful higher education will not only bring about their own success as an individual, but will also bestow a sense of pride and honor to their families.

Another “first” found Western Oregon University the recipient of a $2 million prestigious U.S. Department of Education Title III grant for the first time. The primary goal of the grant is to increase retention of first-time students, reduce equity gaps in retention, and foster a sense of belonging among its students. Additionally, a state-of-the-art Student Success Center is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2025. It will house Western’s two robust TRIO student support programs, academic advising, career services, and additional support services, further simplifying access to the types of assistance first-generation students need to succeed.

If you are the first in your family to attend college, make Western your first choice!

Western Oregon University is located at 345 Monmouth Ave. N. in Monmouth. For information on admissions call (503)838-8211 or email To learn more about campus life visit their website at