Presidents Commit to Increased Accessibility

As part of a national effort to increase the affordability of higher education, the five presidents of the Claremont Colleges submitted proposals as to how they will make each of the 5Cs more accessible for historically underrepresented students, including low-income and first-generation college students. The presidents traveled to the White House on Jan. 16 for a national summit on the issue, joining representatives of more than 80 other colleges and universities. 

Proposals across the 5Cs included initiatives to increase financial aid, provide more students with opportunities for experiential learning, and partner with community-based organizations (CBOs) to recruit low-income and first-generation students. 

CMC

Claremont McKenna College’s written commitment highlighted the public inauguration of the Student Imperative fund, described in the submitted proposal as being “a new initiative [that seeks to meet] three inter-related challenges in higher education: the reduction of cost, including for low- and moderate-income families, the enhancement of value, and the development of thoughtful, productive, and responsible leaders.” 

According to the proposal, the Student Imperative drive will meet these goals by raising $100 million to direct toward financial aid. Currently $27 million is provided toward this purpose.

In addition to raising financial aid funds, the Student Imperative will also launch an “empirical study of the perceptions and behaviors of students from families of diverse economic background" and "targeted recruiting of cohorts of students with special interests and diverse economic circumstances, including low-, moderate-, and middle-income families."

HMC

Rather than focusing on financial accessibility, Harvey Mudd College has made a commitment to explore ways to allow every student to spend a summer participating in an experiential learning opportunity, such as research with a faculty member, an internship, or a community service project. 

According to the school's commitment, research shows that "such programs help with student persistence and retention, as well as with encouraging students to go on to STEM graduate programs.” 

One of the goals of HMC’s recently launched $150 million fundraising campaign is funding the initiative, said HMC Dean of Faculty Jeffrey Groves in an email to TSL. 

“The idea of a guarantee is one that has been proposed by our faculty and is currently being reviewed by our trustees to determine the additional support required to make such a commitment,” Groves wrote. “There is broad support for doing this. We just need to iron out the details.”

When asked why HMC did not commit to any proposals that would increase the enrollment of low-income and first-generation college students, Groves pointed toward the programs currently in place at HMC that are designed to bridge the gap between historically underrepresented groups and STEM fields. 

“[HMC] already offers a number of programs and community engagement activities to support both our students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields as well as elementary, middle and high school students in the surrounding community,” Groves wrote. 

He added that the college offers its Summer Institute Program, which "brings incoming first-year students from underrepresented groups to campus to participate in coursework, community building and engagement activities, with a guarantee of funding for summer research.”

Pitzer

Pitzer College’s proposal reestablishes the school’s commitment to “partnering with new community-based organizations (CBOs) nationally that serve disadvantaged youth.” The proposal has committed admissions officers from Pitzer to visit CBOs that are within the officer's geographical region. 

In addition, CBO counselors will be invited to campus each year for a counselor education tour, with the goal of assisting the organizations "in helping low-income students aspire to some of America’s best institutions of higher learning.”

The college already works with an array of CBOs, such as Chicago Scholars, Rainer Scholars, and Heart of Los Angeles, according to an email sent to TSL by Anna Chung, Senior Director for Communications and Media Relations at Pitzer. Pitzer recently partnered with College Greenlight, which is a website that helps connect admissions officers with the directors of CBOs across the United States.

Finally, Pitzer’s White House proposal included a commitment to continue the school’s participation in the Native American Pipeline Program, which, according to the proposal, “brings Native American students to campus from local communities to experience college, interact with students, and learn about the college admissions process.”

Pomona

Pomona College's White House commitment reflects the goal of increasing enrollment of low-income students. Pomona will increase the percentage of students receiving Pell grants from the current 17 percent to at least 20 percent. Given that Pomona meets 100 percent of students’ demonstrated financial need, “each additional Pell-eligible student will receive significant additional financial support from institutional funds.”

Pomona will also partner with the Posse Foundation — an organization that identifies promising, but often overlooked, public high school students and supports them through the college admissions process — to add a second Posse cohort from Miami beginning in fall 2015, which will be focused on the STEM fields.

“This was an initiative [in response] to much of the research about students of color and underrepresented students having a higher rate of attrition from the sciences,” Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum said. 

“Many students were coming [to Pomona] saying they wanted to be in pre-med, engineering, math, and all of the other sciences and then not continuing," Feldblum said. "A lot of it is having additional support, such as a cohort of students to have your back and institutional services ready at the hand to serve wherever needed. That is what the ‘Science Posse’ provides." 

However, Feldblum recognized the possibility that a student might begin with a desire to major in a STEM field but then decide to change their academic interest. If this were to happen, Feldblum said that the Posse “would not be considered a failure.” 

“A student can start off saying, ‘I want to be a chemist,’ or ‘I want to be in engineering’ and then come to Pomona and discover sociology and history and discover that that’s where their passion lies, and that’s fantastic,” Feldblum said. “The whole point of the liberal arts is to have those opportunities.”

Pomona will also work to increase the number of transfer students from community colleges, focusing on low-income and first-generation students. The proposal states that Pomona typically enrolls one to four community college students per year and seeks to increase that number to seven to 10 per year over the next five years by building relationships with community colleges, especially within Southern California.

Scripps 

Scripps College, like Pitzer, committed to reaching out to low-income and first-generation students by collaborating with CBOs. 

In addition, Scripps committed to expanding their financial aid and scholarship endowment by $35 million over the next five years "so that the College can provide access to a Scripps education to any deserving student, regardless of her ability to pay.” Scripps intends to use some of the funds to support additional Quest Scholars —students from the QuestBridge organization, which assists high-achieving but low-income students in applying to college and securing scholarships — expanding the number at Scripps from eight to 10-15. Scripps also plans to increase the percentage of first-generation and low-income students overall.