Four State Councils Awarded Matching Grants to Support Student Access and Success at Private Colleges

This fall, CIC selected State Councils in Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Virginia to receive First Opportunity Partners grants. Generously supported by the UPS Foundation, CIC’s First Opportunity Partners grant program funds collaborative, state-based initiatives that enhance access to and success in college by first-generation, low-income, and minority students at CIC State Council member institutions. The four State Councils have six months to raise matching funds for the grants and an additional 12 months to complete their proposed projects.

The first round of 2020–2021 First Opportunity Partners grants will support the following projects. Invitations to apply for a second round of grants will be announced in January.

  • The Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI) was selected for its collaborative Career Leaders Program, designed to provide underserved, high-achieving college seniors with a year of comprehensive training and support in developing business, social, and leadership skills that will help prepare them to secure entry-level positions that lead to meaningful careers. In addition to career preparation, each participant will receive a $2,000 scholarship to help fill a financial gap so that they can graduate on time.

  • The Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU) plans to launch a Leadership Fellows Program that will enable rising seniors at AIKCU member institutions to participate in three-year internships. The program will provide participating students with resources and tools to secure successful internship placements; offer leadership development training to enhance career prospects; and educate students on how to identify and connect with employers for career opportunities.

  • The Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges Foundation (CINCF) will create a pilot program for a new initiative: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion—Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders. Designed to increase support and improve graduation rates for minority students at CINCF institutions, the program will provide participating students with coaching, mentoring, scholarship support, and professional development opportunities.

  • The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) project, Enhancing Career Preparation for Underrepresented Students at Virginia’s Independent Colleges, will complement the work of career development officers at VFIC colleges and universities by providing resources to help underrepresented students secure a fulfilling, lucrative job upon graduation. VFIC hopes to leverage relationships with Fortune 500 companies to help improve career opportunities for participating students. The program will engage 150–175 VFIC students in seminars that will enhance their career prospects upon graduation.

The First Opportunity Partners grant program supplements opportunities for students through the CIC/UPS Scholarships program, which helps improve access and affordability at private colleges. By focusing on campus-based programs, the First Opportunity Partners grants leverage the strengths of CIC member colleges and universities to help underrepresented students succeed in college and graduate on time.

For additional information about CIC’s State Councils grant programs, contact Carol Schuler, vice president for State Council programs, at