Kennesaw State University has received a $1.25 million donation from The Coca-Cola Foundation to create a scholarship program supporting first-generation students.

The Coca-Cola First Generation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scholars program will provide scholarships and wraparound services to 35 students who are first in their immediate families to seek college degrees.

“This program aligns with KSU’s strategic priorities in improving recruitment, retention and progression rates while at the same time increasing college access and affordability,” KSU President Sam Olens said. “Kennesaw State has enjoyed previous affiliations with The Coca-Cola Foundation, which has proven to be a valuable partner in education. I am thrilled to have them contribute toward the continued success of our students through this donation.”

A selection committee of scholarship administrators, graduation coaches and faculty will be formed to pick 21 first-generation students and 14 first-generation, underrepresented STEM students from a pool of eligible applicants. Students will be evaluated based on financial need, grade point average, academic major, community service and a scholarship essay. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 award, which will be coupled with the HOPE Scholarship annually to cover all costs associated with tuition, fees and books. Kennesaw State’s Val Whittlesey, associate vice president for curriculum; Jennifer A. Wade-Berg, associate professor of human services; and Ruth Goldfine, interim associate dean of the University College; will lead the program.

An online application system for the program is open until March 15, 2018. Recipients will be notified of their selection on May 1, 2018.

In addition to scholarships, the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship program grant supports one-stop academic and social support designed to meet the needs of the students in the target populations. Support will come in the form of graduation coaches, mentoring receptions and a series of workshops during the course of the four-year program.

The donation is timely for Kennesaw State as there were 8,968 first-generation students – about 28 percent of the total undergraduate population – enrolled during the 2016-17 academic year. At the same time, Kennesaw State has yet to achieve critical mass among its female population in STEM fields. Female students are in the minority for three of the University’s STEM colleges.

“We created the Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship Program to support students who are the first in the immediate families to go to college because we believe in the ripple effect it creates in building lives and sustaining communities,” said Helen Smith Price, president, The Coca-Cola Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Kennesaw State University to make college a reality for 35 deserving first-generation students.”