Colleges Make Progress in Year Since White House Pledge
As part of the Presidential and Department of Education College Opportunity Event in January 2014, leaders across academia and in various scholastic fields met with key policy makers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the nature of higher education. Recognizing the growing increase in diversity amongst college admissions and a subsequent need for greater access to college for low-income Americans, the committee devised national guidelines for insuring both secondary and university success.
The program called on colleges across the country to submit updated institutional commitments to low-income and first-generation students. Administration from each of the 5Cs attended the summit and presented their own policy enhancements.
Claremont McKenna College launched The Student Imperative to fulfill the goals that they pledged in January 2014.
CMC’s largest initiative is to raise $100 million of endowment to provide better financial aid for students, according to the pledge. CMC also pledged to increase the number of cohort groups on campus. Cohort groups are a small group of 5-6 students of low-, moderate-, or middle-income families or have special academic interests.
According to an article written by Associate Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid Georgette DeVeres and Director of Leadership Giving Josh Walter CM ’01 in the winter issue of CMC’s magazine, while it was ordinary to have more than 50-60 percent of students at CMC receive financial aid, the class of 2018’s number dropped under 50 percent.
“While that signals that many of our families can afford the cost of a CMC education, that number also sends another implicit message to many mid- and lower-income families: Only those who can meet the full cost need apply,” DeVeres and Walter wrote. “As a result, many passionate, motivated students … disqualify themselves before even filling out an application.”
According to President Hiram Chodosh, the campaign has raised $65 million so far. DeVeres and Walter wrote that the fund will be used to support “institutional resources, loans, grants, ROTC funding,” and more.
The college is also continuing efforts to build cohorts of first- and second-year students, such as the Dreier Roundtable, the Wagner Family Global Scholarships Program and the Conte Scholars Program. The latter program was established by business leader and policy entrepreneur J.P. Conte and began last fall. Edgar Morelos CM ’16 is a Conte Scholar who was at a community college before coming to CMC.
“One of the reasons that I had to go to community college is because I don’t have access to a lot of financial aid resources, so coming to CMC the Conte Scholars made a huge difference. I didn’t have to take any loans,” Morelos said. “I know I’m privileged to have it and I want to try to make the most of it … so eventually I can open the doors for other people in my community.”
Harvey Mudd College made a pledge to guarantee every student one summer of experiential learning. According to Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing Tim Hussey, this includes "research with a faculty member, an internship or a public service opportunity.”
The pledge also included building on their efforts to support women, minorities and first generation college students at the college and build K-12 STEM awareness. As of the end of 2014, HMC has raised just over $13 million to spend towards experiential learning.
HMC will continue to reach out to potential donors such as alumni, parents, and friends of the college to get more funding.
"The greatest obstacle continues to be securing enough lasting funding to make the pledge a reality," Hussey wrote in an email to TSL.
Peter Saeta, a professor of physics and the physics department chair, said that there are not enough research opportunities for all physics majors currently because of insufficient funding. The department is working with alumni to raise more money for this purpose.
"Having opportunities for all majors by the time they graduate is essential," Saeta said.
According to Hussey, research opportunities have always been a key factor in drawing potential applicants.
“As we expand opportunities for summer experiential learning, I would expect that interest would only grow,” Hussey wrote.
HMC has also kept up its support for women. In an update on their progress in June, HMC reported that they had graduated their first majority female engineering class, with 56 percent.
HMC has also created two new programs to generate K-12 interest in STEM. The college has developed and launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) physics course for high school students and is also in the process of launching a course for middle and high school teachers.
Pitzer College committed to “partnering with new community based organizations (CBOs) nationally that serve disadvantaged students,” according to their pledge. The college’s “Pathways Initiative” also promised to increase visits by admission officers to CBOs and other low-income communities across the country. The initiative also aims to further increase the number of applications from first-generation students.
Interim Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Jamila Everett wrote in an email to TSL that admission officers have visited over 25 CBOs in the 2013-14 recruitment cycle. Pitzer had already created a plan in summer 2014 to attract more first-generation students. As a result, there was a 40 percent increase in the number of applications from these students who make up 14 percent of the Class of 2018.
Pitzer has also increased its efforts in making the campus more inclusive of first-generation students with the creation of the First-Generation Program, "designed to help first-gen students feel at home on campus,” according to Everett. Resident Director Annie Greaney and Linda Lam, coordinator for the Center for Asian Pacific American Students, are overseeing the program; both were first-generation students. In the beginning of the school year, the college hosted a first-generation social.
“It was a great event to bring faculty, current students, and staff members who are also first-generation students together to discuss the challenges and opportunities and to create a network of support,” Everett wrote.
Looking forward, Pitzer seeks to host a CBO summit for both local and national college counselors.
“Overall, we are doing extremely well with meeting our goals,” Everett said. “We obviously have more work to do but we are making huge strides in living Pitzer’s values by understanding the inequities in our educational system and actively recruiting, enrolling, and supporting students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Pomona College has a three-part plan in its White House pledge. First, it pledged that it would increase the number of Pell Grant recipients from 17 percent to 20 percent. Second, the college planned to accept a second Posse group. Finally, Pomona pledged to increase the number of transfer students from community colleges from 1-4 to 7-10 students per year according to the pledge.
The number of students receiving Pell Grant in the Class of 2018 was in the 19 percent range, according to President David Oxtoby.
Oxtoby also said that the college will welcome its first Miami Posse group in the fall. The Posse Foundation connects high school students with its partner colleges to receive four-year, full-tuition scholarships. Pomona has had a Chicago Posse for 10 years.
This first group of 10 Miami Posse students have already committed to Pomona in January and will join the Class of 2019. Jazmin Ocampo PO ’17, a student in the Chicago Posse program, said that as a first-generation student, she appreciates the moral and academic support from Posse.
“It’s been more than just having people to have meals with. It’s been a connection more to home,” Ocampo said. “I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable being in this school if it weren’t for Posse and the community of Posse.”
Oxtoby said that the college is making efforts to build relationships with local community colleges and also visited Miami Dade College, a community college in Miami and the largest college in the U.S., in September 2014.
Oxtoby said that the White House provided a needed push not only for Pomona, but also across the nation.
“There are schools that are so far behind. We can do more at Pomona, I’m not saying we can’t do more but there are schools which are real laggards,” he said. “We’d been talking about this sort of thing and so it sort of pushed us to move a little bit faster than we might have otherwise.”
Scripps College is concentrating their work on financial aid, outreach and student enrollment. In 2013, the college had already called for an expansion of the school’s endowment by $35 million by June 2018.
To increase admit rates for disadvantaged students, the school also intended to expand its QuestBridge scholars program while capping the amount of debt a loan-recipient may face at under $18,000. The QuestBridge program provides support for underrepresented students in their college application process.
Lastly, the school encouraged active mentorship for local youth as well as increases to Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) and other resource programs on campus.
Thirteen months later, President Lori Bettison-Varga shared Scripps’ progress in reaching their goals and the $35 million goal.
“Individuals and foundations have donated these gifts. To date, we have raised $19 million toward the $35 million goal,” Bettison-Varga wrote in an email to TSL.
Scripps visited 11 community-based organizations in the last year and participated in DecemberFest, a counselor tour hosted by The Claremont Colleges, Caltech, University of Redlands, Whittier and Occidental. With these steps in place, Scripps hopes to see all goals met with the arrival of the Class of 2022.
“[This initiative] underscores our overriding commitment to make Scripps College as accessible as possible to as many qualified students as possible, regardless of financial need,” Bettison-Varaga wrote. “Unlike many other similar-sized colleges, Scripps is committed to meeting the full need of each student.”