GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY Showing Success at Raising Graduation Rates Via a Personalized Approach

Story by
Gary Stern

Write here...Only 53 percent of college freshmen earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. The longer students linger in college, the less their chances are of graduating. To raise its graduation rates, Georgia State University (GSU), an Atlanta, Georgia-based state college with a 63 percent minority population, introduced a strategic program. 
By establishing a personalized approach combined with an analytical component, GSU raised graduation rates by 22 percentage points, among the highest increases in the nation. In fact, graduation rates spiked 32 percent for Latino students to 54 percent graduating within six years and rose 28 percentage points for African-Americans to 57 percent. What’s the secret sauce?

Frequently first-generation minority students who are often low-income don’t have the support systems that middle-class students rely on.

The program relies on intensive analytical data but revolves around one-on-one advising to steer students in the right direction and forestall dropping out. Timothy Renick, GSU’s vice provost and vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success, describes its approach as “high tech and high touch.” 
GSU’s student success program launched in 2012. It employs “predictive analytics and a system of more than 800 alerts to track all undergraduates daily, identify at-risk behaviors and have advisors respond to alerts by intervening in a timely fashion to get students back on track.” It anticipates problems rather than reacts to a student mired in trouble or about to drop out when it’s often too late. In fact, during the 2015-16 semesters, advisers conducted 49,000 meetings with students. 

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GSU focused on “developing personalized attention and intervention to students on scale,” Renick explained. Students who attend small, liberal arts colleges often receive personalized advising from a faculty member or counselor, which GSU replicates on a large scale to its 51,000 students. 
Its goal was to close the achievement gap for all students while ensuring that minority students graduate in higher numbers. “The students who suffer the most are the ones who need that intervention the most,” Renick noted. Frequently first-generation minority students who are often low-income don’t have the support systems that middle-class students rely on.
Because there are innumerable reasons why students falter, its analytical system, updated daily, searches for one of 800 trigger points or factors that could lead to dropping out. Advisers are notified, and the student is contacted either via e-mail or text or, depending on the severity, might be asked to come in for a session.
For example, Renick observes that students who receive an A in their initial class in their major graduate at a 75 percent rate, but those awarded a C graduate at a 25 percent clip. The student who received a C in their major is reached and meets with an adviser who does an assessment that could suggest a tutor or attending the college’s writing center. “They may be advised to take another course before they try upper level courses,” he said.
Many students enroll in a course that doesn’t fit them academically. “We have 3,000 courses, and students may be choosing the wrong chemistry course,” Renick asserted.
To provide this intensive advising, GSU doubled the number of its advisers. Yet Renick acknowledges that the college lost $40 million in state funding from 2008 through 2012. “We’re not getting additional funding,” he said. 
Allocating resources in this way makes good financial sense. “For every one percent we increase retention rather than dropping out that’s worth $3 million in state revenue,” he said. Retaining students results in increased tuition fees, so there’s a cost benefit in hiring more advisers. When asked why GSU has been successful in spiking graduation rates for Latinos and African-Americans, Renick was reluctant to offer a pat, simplistic response. “We want to look at every student as an individual,” he said. For example, the Latino journalism major with strong verbal skills faces different issues than the Cuban-born chemistry major who needs strengthening in math. Latino students hail from these top five countries: Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and El Salvador.
Because financial difficulties are another major bugaboo or factor for dropping out, GSU provides financial literacy for students in their freshman year. “We help them and their families make better financial decisions,” Renick said. A freshman who lives at home rather than the dorm can save money and avoid financial problems during the junior year.
GSU found that minor financial setbacks could lead to dropping out. It established the Panther Retention Grants, which provide an average of $900 with a maximum of $1,500 to offset an emergency to pay tuition and bills. In 2015-16, nearly 2,000 Georgia State students returned to the classroom having received these grants rather than having to take a leave or dropping out.
This emergency funding “pays for itself,” Renick revealed. Donors love the program because it’s manageable, relies on smaller donations and sees concrete results. He says it operates like “preventive medicine” to keep students in college. Once they take a leave, it’s much harder to woo them back to college.
Since so many high school students face problems adjusting to college, GSU created the Success Academy, a summer workshop designed for incoming students who face academic risk based on academic metrics such as high school grades, test scores and performance in math and science. 
In the summer of 2016, 420 students participated in the academy. It helps students facing a new environment “making choices unmonitored by parents, choosing their own schedules and often deciding on how to manage their time, money and competing options,” he said. In 2015-16, the one-year retention rate for Success Academy graduates was 87 percent, a significant increase over the 50 percent 2012 retention rate.
Representatives from over 200 colleges have visited GSU to learn about their retention programs. Renick says if a college wanted to replicate it they should follow three basic steps: 1) pay attention to data, 2) ensure you have a structure in place the minute you introduce the program, 3) build and develop it on scale, so it can address 30,000 students not just 100.    
Renick says the program has thrived because “By warning students when they first get off path, we help them to get back on track. The key to our progress has been delivering personalized help to all students in many cases before the student even knows that they are at risk.” •

Training Foreign-Trained Physicians to Become NURSES IN THE US

When many doctors move to the U.S. from foreign countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean and elsewhere, they are forbidden from practicing medicine.  In order to become certified as a doctor in the U.S., these foreign-born physicians must complete a residency and pass the medicine licensure examination.  Based on their own family obligations, many are forced to take less qualified jobs as nurse’s assistants or phlebotomists, drawing blood, which are below their academic credentials.  

Many graduates of the program work in hospitals, clinics, school systems, wound care centers and medical specialties.

Florida International University, a research university based in Miami, Florida, created a program, Foreign Educated Physicians to Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master of Science in Nursing (BSN/MSN), that trains doctors to become nurse practitioners or registered nurses, drawing on their medical background and bilingual skills.  The program enables them to stay in the medical field, earn a strong salary and assist patients.

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Dr. Divina Grossman, a former dean at Florida International University (FIU), observed that the skills that many doctors had obtained in other countries were being wasted and lost.  The program launched in 2001 and offered bachelor’s degrees for registered nurses but was expanded in 2010-11 to specialize in master’s degrees for nurse practitioners.  The master’s program lasts eight semesters or three years, and the undergraduate program lasts five semesters or a year and a half.
The program attracts students with “an amazing background, including a significant knowledge base of medicine, patients and health care,” explained Maria Olenick, the chair of undergraduate nursing at FIU and its former director for three years. “Many of our students are looking for a second career option in healthcare,” she noted.
Since all students have already trained as physicians, they are older, with an average age of 40 years old.  Moreover, it attracts more men into nursing; in fact, 50 percent of the students are men.  

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The program is full-time, though some students continue to work in part time jobs and earn money to meet family obligations.  Many need to save enough money, work part-time or take out loans to afford the $41,000 a year tuition for state residents and $90,800 for non-residents.
Gaining acceptance into the program is extremely competitive.  Olenick said about 400 students applied for the 50 openings in 2015-16, so 80 percent are rejected. Though Cuba and Haiti are the countries that produce the most students in the program, students hail from China, Czechoslovakia and more than 30 countries.  Latinos comprise about 40 percent of all students.
To be accepted, students must present their translated transcripts from medical college, equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, and pass an English language exam or two English classes in the U.S.  Their grades and academic performance are evaluated, and they are interviewed.  “We’re looking for professionals who have a capacity to communicate in English, who have interest and motivation, and are ready to take the plunge into a full-time curriculum,” Olenick noted.
All 50 students are aiming for a master’s degree in nursing.  The ones who stop at the bachelor’s degree level aren’t successful in the program or didn’t pass their registered nursing exam.
But don’t many students who are trained as physicians feel that becoming a nurse practitioner is below their status?  Olenick acknowledged that some students can be disappointed and even angry at the outset.  
“But most after a semester and a half turn around and say, ‘I didn’t want to do it, but now I love it,’’’ she said. Most are grateful at gaining a second chance at helping others in the healthcare field and expanding their knowledge into a new field.
Olenick said the first two years concentrate on undergraduate nursing and preparing students to pass the state board exam to become a registered nurse.  The final year is the master’s portion where students prepare to become nurse practitioners and enhance their knowledge of advanced nursing and improve their prescriptive and diagnostic skills.
The program offers four specialties as nurse practitioners in: family, adult, pediatrics (18 years and younger) and psychiatric.  
Many graduates of the program work in hospitals, clinics, school systems, wound care centers and medical specialties.  Olenick said that the starting salary for nurse practitioners is $90,000, and obtaining a six-figure salary is not uncommon.  
These FIU graduates are coveted by hospitals and other employers for several reasons.  “These graduates are really doctors and nurses rolled into one.  It’s like obtaining two specialties for the price of one,” explained Olenick, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 
Moreover, many graduates are bilingual, speaking Spanish and English, and some speak three to five languages.  Speaking Spanish in Florida is clearly an advantage that helps graduates provide better patient care.
Erich Companioni, a Miami, Florida, resident and 44-year-old Cuban native who moved to the U.S. at age 13, gained his medical degree in the Dominican Republic.  After passing the first of three medical boards, he got married and started to raise a family.  He couldn’t afford to take time off for a residency program and instead opened a home health nursing company.
When he learned of the FIU program to train foreign-trained physicians, he saw it as a “great opportunity to become a nurse practitioner.  It was closest to my dream,” he said.   Once you immigrate to the U.S., he said, “You need to work to support a family.”
Learning to become a nurse practitioner is different from training to become a physician.  Nurse practitioners “see patients in a holistic way.  We take care of every single process and social issues.  Physicians are more targeted in how they help people,” he said.
When he graduated in 2015 as a family nurse practitioner, he accepted a job in a radiation/oncology practice in Miami.  His patients have cancer or terminal illnesses. “I’m helping patients not only from a medical point of view but giving them the support and guidance from day one of evaluation until they finish radiation,” he asserted.

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Nurse practitioners who were trained as physicians are very marketable, Companioni explained.   “The combination gives you more extensive knowledge than a regular nurse practitioner,” he observed.
Companioni is gratified being patient-centered and employing his medical skills.  Some foreign-trained physicians could have a problem dealing with the “ego” issues of not being a doctor since in foreign countries, they’re viewed as gods.  He said being a nurse practitioner is a “way of fulfilling his dream of helping people doing exactly what you’re training to do as a doctor with some limitations.”

Olenick sees the program as a win/win for graduates, the college and the healthcare system.  It enhances diversity at FIU in several ways, “bringing different cultures and ethnic groups and bringing more men into nursing.  It brings people with a background in medicine into nursing, and what can be better than that?” •

University of Michigan Finds New Ways to Attract Latinos and Minorities

The University of Michigan's (U-M) 2003 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Gratz v Bolllinger was cut short in 2006 by passage of Michigan ballot Proposal 2/2006, which prohibits the use of affirmative action as a way to spur minority enrollment and even the play field for undergraduate admissions. But that hasn’t stopped the university from finding innovative ways to target Latino and African-American students that don’t contradict the Supreme Court ruling or give admissions preference to minority students.

“College Corps mentors are trained in how to understand and cope with issues that can arise for Latino students.”
— William Collins, Director, Center for Educational Outreach, U-M
William Collins, Director, Center for Educational Outreach, U-M

William Collins, Director, Center for Educational Outreach, U-M

Latinos account for 5 percent of the state of Michigan population, a much smaller percentage than in California or Florida, said William Collins, director of the university’s Center for Educational Outreach, which was launched in 2008 to find ways to reach minority audiences. The Latino population in Michigan, how-ever, is expected to double in the next 15 years, so attracting Hispanics is critical if the university wants to reflect the state population. Since the Center for Educational Outreach is not connected to the admissions department, it doesn’t admit students but makes minorities aware of what the college offers.
Gaining acceptance to the University of Michigan is demanding. Of its freshman class in 2010, students averaged a 3.8 GPA and 31 to 36 on the ACT. Still, U-M prides itself on attracting a diverse student body and reports that of its 41,924 undergraduates, 5 percent are Latino, 6 percent are African-American, 1.5 percent are Native American and 15 percent are Asian-American, constituting a 26 percent minority population.
In 2008 the university launched the College Corps program – an intensive, 10-week program of workshops focused on college access and awareness that targets secondary school students in underserved communities, explains Michael Turner, coordinator of College Corps and outreach coordinator at the university, based in Ann Arbor. The workshops concentrate on financial aid, careers, setting goals and applying to college.
Why start College Corps? “It’s a response to the Supreme Court verdict. The university isn’t blind to the fact that many of these communities are undersourced,” Turner said. Hence the program tries to level the playing field and provide opportunities for talented minorities who can meet U-M’s criteria. While it hopes to attract students to U-M, if students are inspired to attend Eastern Michigan University or a community college, the program still meets its goals, Turner suggests.
Thirty University of Michigan students, mostly Latino undergraduates, tutor and mentor students in middle and high schools in Monroe, Mich., located 30 miles south of Ann Arbor. “You must reach them early. Twelfth grade is too late,” Collins said.
The Latino U-M undergraduates that volunteer receive no pay but want to give back to the community. They mentor 30 Monroe students after school, helping them with academic work and explaining what colleges expect from students. Nearly 90 percent are first-generation Latinos whose parents haven’t attended college.
University of Michigan coordinates two College Corps programs. The Monroe program attracts mostly Latino students. The other program is located in Brightmor, a Detroit neighborhood whose school population is mostly African-American. Both programs are open to students of other ethnic backgrounds as well. Turner would like to see a program started in Dearborn, where a large Muslim population resides.
Both programs are funded by a $12,000 Michigan Campus Compact Grant, which requires a yearly resubmission. Combined, the programs cost about$30,000 to run annually, and U-M supplies the additional $18,000 funding.
College Corps is filling in the admissions gaps since the high schools don’t have the budgets to provide intensive college counseling. One of its primary goals is to raise students’ aspirations. Many of the Latino students only have community colleges on their radar screen, and College Corps encourages them, when appropriate, to consider more academically rigor-ous colleges, such the University of Michigan.
“How do we reach out to communities and make them aware of college culture and position them to go to college and become high-earning members of society?” asks Collins. Turner added, “We want them to know that college is possible.” Students are taught that attending a college requires extensive planning and an ability to choose the college that best fits their academic performance.
The College Corps workshops teach a variety of skills. For example, students learn goal setting, which entails how to set a plan and complete it, such as applying to college or researching financial aid. Students are encouraged to show perseverance and not give up if they reach an impediment or obstacle. During the workshops, students fill out applications for three different colleges to provide exposure to the complicated admissions process, which has derailed many minority students. A U-M financial aid officer leads a work-shop that explains how to apply for financial aid, including Pell Grants, and explains what resources and aid colleges such as University of Michigan offer.

“College Corps is an intensive, 10-week program of workshops focused on college access and awareness that targets secondary school students in underserved communities.”
— Michael Turner, Coordinator of College Corps, Outreach Coordinator, U-M
Michael Turner, Coordinator of College Corps, Outreach Coordinator, U-M

Michael Turner, Coordinator of College Corps, Outreach Coordinator, U-M

Ingredients that Make College Corps Successful

Two other aspects of the program contribute to its effectiveness: involving parents and bringing students to the University of Michigan campus. College Corps holds two parents nights. To attract parents, it notifies them of events via regular mail and e-mail and, as an incentive, provides dinner. During the program, parents listen to a financial aid representative who explains how college can be made affordable through grants, scholarships and loans.
In addition, Monroe students are brought on campus to attend a Latino cultural event that includes classical dance and musical performances. “We want to immerse them in campus life,” said Turner, a Detroit native, so students don’t see it as a “foreign territory. Students need to feel welcome on campus.”

Attracting the Right Volunteers Is Essential

Another key to the program’s effectiveness is attracting U-M students on campus as tutors and mentors who have a willingness to help others. Since University of Michigan is a highly competitive college and students must spend time working with students after class and travel 30 miles to Monroe, under-graduates must be very willing to give back. College Corps works closely with Maximizing Academic Success (MAS), which was started at U-M as a student-run organization to expose Latino youth to higher education, explains María Rahman, who heads MAS and is a fourth-year engineering major.
Mentors must take a three-credit sociology course, Project Community, that trains them to work with high school students and focuses on social justice. Collins says that College Corps mentors are trained in how to understand and cope with issues that can arise for Latino students. For example, Latinas, even those with high GPAs, have often been discouraged from attending college in order to help out home with younger children or earning money to balance the family budget. Students explain to parents that earning a college degree can multiply their earnings many times over during their working life.

JFK on the Michigan Union Steps © Ann Arbor News

JFK on the Michigan Union Steps © Ann Arbor News

Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Works

Another factor that contributes to making the program effective is peer-to-peer mentoring. It raises a high school student’s comfort level when the mentor is someone with whom the adolescent can identify, someone who understands what the teenager is experiencing. University professors can be intimidating to first-generation students who aren’t familiar with college. Rahman added, “It allows students to be comfortable enough to listen and learn from one another without the typical hierarchal learning styles.”
The student volunteers who succeed show “timeliness, organization, professionalism and an eagerness to learn, as well as helping others,” Rahman said.
Why do students volunteer? Turner says that the undergraduate mentors and tutors volunteer for a variety of reasons, but most have a passion for helping others. Volunteers are often involved in helping fields such as teaching and nursing but can also be science and music majors who want to deepen their knowledge. Said Rahman, “Aside from a great community service activity on their résumé, it allows them to break away from the rigorous college routine and make a difference in one person’s life.”
Rahman said she’d like to see the Monroe students get help with their test taking. Collins noted that “minority students haven’t fared well on standardized tests. They haven’t had the experience and exposure with test taking.”
When Skylar Soto was in middle school in Monroe, Mich., she participated in Maximizing Academic Success. MAS, she said, provided tutoring and academic preparation but also created an entire support system for the mostly minority participants. “If you needed support for anything, academic help or socially, someone at MAS was there to offer help,” Soto said. Her MAS experience led her to participate in College Corps.
In the fall of 2010, Soto started as a freshman at the University of Michigan. She’s part of the College of Engineering and leaning toward majoring in mechanical engineering. Since she’s most talented at math and enjoys problem solving, engineering suits her. She says engineering offers a wealth of opportunities, challenges and careers.
Soto’s mom and dad are Mexican and American. Her dad works on the Chrysler assembling line, and her mom, who is Caucasian, is a waitress in Monroe. MAS provided early exposure to the University of Michigan cam-pus, which motivated Soto back then to envision attending U-M.
Soto describes College Corps as offering college preparation, emphasizing teamwork and collaboration, and providing scholarship information. She learned how to apply for college and financial aid, which helped her identify $18,000 in scholarship money, reducing her need to take out loans. “I thought I had a grasp on scholarships, but I learned that there was a lot I didn’t know,” she admitted.
As a freshman at U-M, Soto had to make certain adjustments. For example, she had to master managing her time, “and not waiting until the last minute because there’s no one there to discipline you.” But since one quarter of U-M’s student body is minority, and minorities have a strong presence on campus, Soto felt as if she fit into campus life. College Corps and MAS paved the way and showed her “there were many opportunities and resources on campus,” she said.
After two years, College Corps has not been evaluated, but Turner says it should be judged on whether the high school students are improving academically, their attendance in the workshops, parental involvement, and what percentage of students apply and are accepted by colleges.
Overall, what’s the effect of College Corps on Monroe’s minority students? “It levels the playing field and provides more access to college for first-generation students. The university meets students where they’re at, in their community. It focuses on academic excellence,” Turner said.

TCU’s Recruitment Strategies Yielding More Hispanic Students – and Retaining Them

In the fall of 1999, administrators at Texas Christian University (TCU), located in Fort Worth, Texas, met to devise a strategy to attract more African-American and Latino students. At that time, only 5 percent of its students were Latino; and 4 percent, African-American. After initiating a task force, TCU stepped up its efforts to diversify its campus. 

Darron Turner, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, TCU

Darron Turner, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, TCU

Ten years later, the TCU campus has become more reflective of the Fort Worth and Dallas area and its rising Hispanic and minority population. Of the 9,140 undergraduates enrolled at TCU in fall 2010, 9 percent were Hispanic and 5 per-cent were African-American. In a decade, the number of Latino students had nearly doubled while African-Americans showed a modest gain. All of this was accomplished despite a 1996 Texas court ruling prohibiting targeted minority financial aid, later reversed for private colleges.
The task force was established because TCU needed to “respond to changing demographics,” explained Darron Turner, assistant vice chancellor of student affairs, who has been at TCU for 17 years.

Timeka Gordon, Director, Community Scholars Program, TCU

Timeka Gordon, Director, Community Scholars Program, TCU

To attract a multicultural student population, the university took several steps, including: 1) establishing a diversity grants program, 2) targeting high schools with large minority populations, and 3) devising a special scholarship pro-gram (more about that below) to boost its multi-cultural population. In addition, it broadened its marketing efforts, putting minority students on the cover of brochures and emphasizing on bill-boards minority students beyond high-profile TCU football players.
Turner said that TCU had to “change the perception” of the local minority community. “TCU was not seen positively in the community of color,” he admitted. TCU and its admissions staff targeted minority high schools, worked with community-based organizations and even invited elementary students on campus to take standardized K-12 tests to provide exposure to TCU. When TCU admissions staff ventured into the community, “We didn’t go in as being experts in everything. We needed to find out what was going on and see how we could help,” Turner said.
To connect with the Latino population, several admissions staff took classes in Spanish so they could relate to the Hispanic community. “When admissions spoke to local community folks, they had some understanding of Spanish, though they weren’t bilingual,” Turner said.
During TCU’s orientation program, a work-shop on dealing with a diverse student campus was on the agenda. Many TCU freshmen attended high schools that were homogenous, mostly White, Hispanic or African-American, so preparing them to deal with a multicultural campus was deemed necessary.
Since TCU is a private college and costly to working-class students, Turner said it is “aggressive at putting together financial aid packages.” The college has been successful at fundraising, enabling it to raise scholarship money and offset the full tuition price for many students. Indeed, 70 percent of TCU students receive some type of financial help from its Office of Financial Aid.
Creating a more diverse student body is part of the college’s overall mission, explained Timeka Gordon, director of the Community Scholars program at TCU. “We’re trying to develop ethical leaders in a global society,” she said. This goal can only be achieved if majority students interact and engage with students who are different from them and reflect the global population. Since the Hispanic population in Texas is growing by “leaps and bounds,” it was imperative to attract more Latino students, she said.
The neighborhood surrounding the college campus is extremely multicultural, Gordon noted. “When you step on campus, it’s not as diverse. We’re in this glass bubble. We wanted the campus to reflect the community,” she said.
Part of the job of the admissions department was “getting into the minority communities,” explains Gordon. “It’s not always about minority students coming to us; we have to come to them,” she offered. Many low-income students don’t own cars, and traveling to campus can be difficult.

TCU’s Community Scholars hold an outstanding record of retention with 97 percent graduating.
Class of 2013

Class of 2013

A Special Scholarship Program

One of TCU’s first steps in 1999-2000 was establishing the Community Scholars Program, which provided scholarships for “promising students of color from local high schools within the Fort Worth/Dallas area,” noted Gordon. The scholarships made TCU affordable and enabled it to attract some of the best and the brightest of minority students from cities in proximity to campus. Since its inception, 200 students have participated.
Scholarships have increased over the years. At first, four full scholarships were offered to inner-city Fort Worth high school graduates, but by 2010 that number had grown to 30 Community Scholars, though scholarships were partial. Funding for the scholarships started at$186,000, rose to $400,000 in 2000, and by 2003, when four full classes of Community Scholars were attending TCU, the budget reached $1.2 million.
Earning a scholarship is competitive. Last year, 300 students applied for the 30 Community Scholars awards. Winners are in the top 5 per-cent of their high school graduating class and average 1640 on the SATs or 26 on the ACTs, criteria that must be met by all incoming TCU students. Student essays, extracurricular participation, counselor’s evaluation and special talents are also taken into consideration.
Of the 113 Community Scholars currently enrolled at TCU, 52 are Hispanic, 39 are African-American, 17 are Asian-American, two are White, and three are other. Though scholarships are worth $26,000 a year, annual fees at TCU are$41,000, including room and board (and will rise 8 percent to about $44,000 a year in 2011). Hence only about 60 percent of costs are covered by the scholarships so that students need to obtain additional financial aid, grants or take out loans to finance the rest.
Before their freshman year, Community Scholars participate in a two-day orientation on campus. Included is a workshop, “Bridging the Gap,” in which faculty and staff discuss social adjustments that students must make when living and studying on a diverse campus.
To retain their scholarships, students must maintain a 2.75 GPA and meet other criteria. One distinctive requirement of becoming a Community Scholar is that students must live in dormitories throughout the scholarship. “We want students to be visible and engaged in the community throughout the scholarship’s four years,” Gordon explained. Scholars must also take four noncredit leadership courses and devote 30 hours of community services a year.
Gordon noted that many Community Scholars volunteer at the KinderFrogs School, an early childhood education program for children with Down syndrome, on campus and at YMCAs in Fort Worth.
TCU’s Community Scholars hold an outstanding record of retention with 97 percent graduating. As associate director, Gordon meets with freshman and sophomore scholarship winners one-on-one weekly to oversee their academic progress, deal with any extracurricular issues and serve as a mentor. Gordon says scholarship winners “call me mom, big sister or auntie.” Having one person oversee the program has been an instrumental role in retaining students.
Gordon creates an individual academic plan to ensure that each student is on target to pass classes and progress toward graduation. Faculty provide mid-term reports on each scholarship winner’s absences and academic progress. If any academic problems arise, Gordon involves Student Support Services to provide tutors at no cost.
Scholarship winners are eager to give back to TCU. “They become ambassadors for the col-lege,” Gordon says. Community Scholars accompany admissions staff to their high school to dis-cuss TCU and explain how minority students fit into the campus.
In 2011, the Community Scholars program will undergo change. It will offer a full scholar-ship, but the number of students in the program will be reduced from 30 to between 20 and 25 students. The change was made because the college recognized that “As tuition went up, scholars were paying more money, which created financial issues. We didn’t want them to spend too much time working off campus, so we decided to return to offer full scholarships but fewer of them,” Turner said.

Gilbert Vásquez, Sophomore Biology Major, Community Scholar, TCU

Gilbert Vásquez, Sophomore Biology Major, Community Scholar, TCU

Targeting Minorities

But the Community Scholars program is only one way that TCU targets minority students. TCU’s Office of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services hosts a two-day Minority High School conference aimed at local sophomores and juniors within a 30-mile radius to provide a taste of campus life. Minority students are assigned a mentor, sit in on classes, dine in the cafeteria and meet with faculty and administrators. “It exposes TCU to students and provides a day in the life of a college student,” Gordon said.
TCU Admissions also hosts Hispanic Senior Experience and Black Senior Weekends on cam-pus. Students stay overnight on campus, are assigned a mentor in their expected major and meet with staff.
Gilbert Vásquez, a sophomore biology major interested in becoming a physician, knew about TCU from growing up in Fort Worth and attending North Side High School, where he was class valedictorian. When he was named a Community Scholar, he “saw it as an opportunity. Someone was investing in me to succeed,” he said. If it weren’t for earning the scholarship, he likely couldn’t afford TCU and might have had to attend a community college.
Vásquez finds the academic programs at TCU challenging and extremely competitive in premed. But he feels enriched by his courses in biology, history and “Death and Dying,” a social work class. “That class will help prepare me for dealing with patients or a death in the family,” he said.
But not everything socially at TCU has been smooth and easy. When Vásquez first met his roommate, that roommate wasn’t thrilled with having a Latino in his suite. Gradually, they talked things out, and his roommate came to accept him as a person and became a friend.
Now Vásquez feels that he and the other Community Scholars have formed a “family” on campus. “We see each other every day and depend on each other,” he said.
While TCU has been successful at attracting more Latino students, it hasn’t produced the same results with African-American students. Why not? Turner, who is African-American, admitted, “I’ve been struggling with that for a long time and don’t have an answer. The same programs that have addressed Latinos were put in place for African-Americans,” he said, but haven’t garnered the same results.
In 10 years, TCU has doubled the number of its Latino students and expects to increase that percentage in the future. Gordon explains this increase by saying, “It’s the responsibility of the university to go into the neighborhoods and communities where talented minority students are located. We can’t expect them to come to us.” And once minority students are on campus, the university must welcome, embrace and challenge them.

U. of California-Riverside Devises a Successful Latino Graduation Strategy

The University of California (UC)-Riverside, a large institution with 20,746 undergraduates that is 35 percent Latino, takes graduating Hispanics very seriously. It relies on several success strategies, including first-year learning communities, creating Hispanic academic programs, developing an early-warning academic alert, and using data to retain and graduate larger number of Latino students than the norm. Results have been impressive – 62 percent of its Latino students graduate within six years, compared to a national Hispanic graduation rate of 51 percent.

James Sandoval, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

What can other colleges learn from its strategies?
A 2010 Education Trust report, Big Gaps, Small Gaps, Hispanic Students, written by Mamie Lynch and Jennifer Engle, noted that encouraging Latinos to earn a bachelor’s degree is critical to the country’s future. By 2050, Latinos will number about one-third of the work force, and yet, as of 2010, only 13 per-cent of Hispanics had bachelor’s degrees compared to 21 percent of African-Americans and 39 percent of Whites. Private colleges do a more effective job, graduating 66 percent of Latino students compared to 48 percent of public col-leges. The researchers concluded that colleges must create innovative ways to recruit and graduate more Latinos.
UC-Riverside is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and a research university, which helps attract talented students in the sciences. Its research facilities
provide access to doctoral programs that many HSIs can’t furnish.
The college is strategically located, about 60 miles from Los Angeles and 90 miles from San Diego, and its three most popular majors are psy-chology, business administration and biology.
Here are the factors that have enabled UC-Riverside to graduate a large number of Hispanic students:

William Kidder, Assistant Executive Vice Chancellor

1. Commitment starts at the top and filters through campus.

The Education Trust report praised UC-Riverside for making graduating Latino students a “core value” that has became part of the campus culture. The provost’s office oversees the monitoring of Hispanic graduation rates and reviews statistics from each of its nine colleges, including Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Engineering or Natural Sciences. William Kidder, assistant executive vice chancellor at UC-Riverside, attributes its success in reaching Latino students to the commitment the college makes to diversity from “admissions to all facets of the university’s outreach efforts up to chancellors.” Chancellor Timothy White, in several speeches, has positioned diversity as critical to the college’s success. Having a diversity commitment from the chancellor sends a message throughout the college about the importance of graduating minority (and all) students.

2. Develop learning communities.

Because the state university is large and many first-generation college students could easily get lost in the hubbub of a complex campus, UC-Riverside introduced freshman learning communities to break down the anonymity of the university. These learning communities are self-selected by students, and about 40 percent of all freshmen opt for them. At orientation, admissions staff extol the academic and social benefits of joining learning communities. In the learning communities, smaller groups of students take the same classes, operate as a cohort and bond in classes in their respective colleges. “It’s important that students have a sense of connection rooted in the university communi-ty,” Kidder said. One reason why learning communities have proved effec-tive at retaining and engaging students is that they generate more interac-tions with faculty and graduate teaching assistants, he said. Hence, students in learning communities receive more personalized advising and more peer assistance. In the sciences, learning community students have greater opportunities for paid summer research. Since many Latino students are first-generation college students and can have a hard time adjusting to col-lege, these learning communities play an important role in retention. Indeed, UC-Riverside’s data reveal that Latino students return as sopho-mores at an 8 percent higher rate than the norm. “For students who are academically talented but haven’t had exposure to college, it’s more important that students have a sense of belonging and engagement,” Kidder noted.

3. Recruit targeted students.

Before a college can retain and graduate students, it must attract students who meet its standards. Gaining acceptance to UC-Riverside is demanding. Students must have a 3.5 GPA and average SAT scores of 1470, explained James Sandoval, vice chancellor of student affairs. Its admissions department works with local high schools and community colleges and has developed strong relationships with community-based organizations in Hispanic neighborhoods to identify students that meet its requirements. “It’s through these relationships we’ve built a strong base of highly qualified students,” Sandoval said.

4. Build word of mouth in the community.

Snappy brochures and online marketing can play a role in recruiting students, but building word-of-mouth in local communities can have a major effect on attracting talented Latinos, Sandoval suggested. UC-Riverside’s undergraduates and graduates are encouraged to return to their community to speak to family members, high school counselors and teachers at local high schools to explain how Latinos thrive on campus.

5. Establish a welcoming atmosphere on campus.

“Students need to step on cam-pus and feel welcome,” explained Sandoval. At orientation, students are informed of programs such as Chicano studies or living in Mundo Hall, a dormitory for Latino and Chicano students, which can help students make the transition from high school to living independently. Since UC-Riverside changes classes on a quarterly basis, students need to be welcomed immediately to fit into a rapidly changing educational environment. Moreover, students are trained as peer mentors who can then help other students adjust to campus life. For example, when senior Tracy Juárez, a psychology major, was a freshman, she recalls the college holding welcome week and organizing a series of events on campus and in the dorms. Events were held so that freshmen could socialize, get to know each other and become familiar with campus. That set the tone for helping students feel at ease on campus.

6. Having critical mass matters.

When Latinos are only 3 percent or 4 percent of the student population, it’s easy for them to feel marginalized or ostracized. But at UC-Riverside, Latino students, who are mostly Chicanos, constitute one out of every three students, forming a sizable campus minority. When UC-Riverside surveys undergraduates, 90 percent of Latino students say they feel a strong sense of self-respect on campus.

 7. Create an early intervention system.

Freshmen can easily get into “academic trouble, which can cause a downward spiral before they recover,” noted Kidder. Rather than waiting until the end of the fall quarter to determine grades and which students are facing difficulty, in 2009, UC-Riverside’s vice provost for undergraduate education partnered with IT to create an early-warning assessment system that enables faculty to reveal struggling students before the end of a semester. Faculty administer an early assessment exercise within the first three weeks of the fall quarter; students who fail to meet the cutoff scores are invited to visit the Academic Resource Center for assistance. If the Academic Resource Center doesn’t hear from students, it reaches out to them. Students meet with peer counselors who assess the problem and then refer students for appropriate resources such as tutoring.

8. Maintain affordability.

Affordability breeds academic success. Even small changes in financial aid at a federal or state level can disrupt students receiving aid, Kidder suggests, and 54 percent of UC-Riverside students receive Pell Grants. One of the keys to obtaining financial aid, which may sound simple but often isn’t, is meeting dead-lines, Sandoval said. Beginning at recruitment, students are made aware of deadlines to obtain Pell Grants and other financial aid to ensure compliance.

9. Devise programs that target Hispanics.

UC-Riverside offers a Hispanic studies program that appeals to students who want to pursue Latino culture and history. Moreover, it offers a Chicano Student Program that provides support services and assistance for students in need or tutoring or counseling. Juárez notes that Latino students can feel welcome within the Chicano Student Program. Most staff is bilingual. Students can use the Chicano Student Program center as an office, use computers, find tutoring and ask questions of the coordinator. “It provides a very welcoming atmosphere,” Juárez said. In addition, UC-Riverside focuses on building communities. Organizations such as Latinos in Science bring together students with common majors and interests and serve as support systems to help them do well academically and socially, said Sandoval.

10. Hold cultural events.

Encouraging Latino students to feel accepted on campus also entails respecting their culture. Juárez and many other students participated in a Day of the Dead cultural event on campus. The festival included foods, enabled students to create altars as part of the ceremony, and took place in the campus center. “It was a way to allow Hispanics to feel a part of their culture and share it with other students on campus,” said Juárez.

11.Develop diversity programs.

Latino students are also encouraged to join campus-wide organizations. Sandoval noted that the campus has a wide range of activities such as a marketing club and multicultural organizations that attract a wide range of students. Its Common Ground program organizes leadership retreats that welcome students of all races, religions and ethnic backgrounds. “We’re focused on bridge building between communities,” he said.

12. Encourage volunteering.

Juárez is president of the Latino Union, an organization of about 50 students that is dedicated to community service. The Latino Union participates in a Diabetes walk and raises funds for an autism organization whose funding had been cut. “Getting students involved in a community service organization expands their horizons. It helps students understand other people’s needs and gets them involved in the community,” said Juárez, who plans to go to graduate school in clinical psychology and earn a doctorate.

13. Why students fail to graduate.

Despite its track record of success, with 62 percent of Latino students getting a degree within six years, about one of every three Latino students fails to graduate from UC-Riverside. But that 62 percent number can be misleading, says Kidder, because many students transfer and graduate from other institutions – and others “fall in love, their circumstances change, or they move away.” 

14. Create strategic plans for the future to increase success.

UC-Riverside has a 2020 strategic plan to increase its graduation rate to 75 percent. Kidder said that goal can be reached by attracting more students into its learning communities, improving academic advisory services and expanding opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research in the arts and humanities and other areas.

Boosting Minority Acceptance into Business School: One Nonprofit Paves the Way

Minorities have had a hard time being accepted into graduate business schools. Competing in the GMATs (Graduate Management Admission Test) against majority students who have gone through extensive training often puts minority candidates at a disadvantage. That’s why John Rice launched Management Leadership for Tomorrow in 2001, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping minorities gain entry into M.B.A. programs.

Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) reports that Hispanics and African-Americans comprise about 30 percent of the American population and yet only 3 percent of most senior executive positions at major companies and nonprofits. Moreover, MLT notes that Hispanics and African-Americans constitute just 7 percent of students in the top 20 business schools.
Why are minorities shut out of most business schools? Rice said that the key ingredients to succeed in business school “aren’t taught in the classroom or in places where most minorities have access to.” Instead they’re passed down infor-mally via friends or family. Hence minorities need a roadmap to suc-cess, building informal networks and finding mentors.
MLT, which is based in New York but is nationwide, trains minorities in the skills required for success, including practicing GMATs, master-ing interviewing skills and honing their essays.
Founder John Rice graduated from Harvard Business School (HBS) and spent 20 years as a senior executive at Walt Disney, AT&T and the National Basketball Association, encountering few minorities along the way in the chief executive suite. Using his fundraising skills, he raised $2 million from Atlantic Philanthropies to launch MLT in 2001. MBA Prep is one of its programs.
In its first year, Rice brought in Boston Consulting Group via a former HBS classmate to conduct a strategic analysis of MLT. Boston Consulting analyzed how MLT was helping minority students and how it needed to solve students’ problems at every stage to help them surpass each hur-dle. “That rigorous analysis of how we solve the problems of leadership tomorrow drives our results today,” Rice said. Earning an M.B.A. often serves as the springboard to high-paying jobs and promotions into the executive suite.
Though a nonprofit organization, MLT describes itself as the “premier career development institution” tar-geting high-potential minorities. It has sparked numerous MLT gradu-ates into establishing careers at Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company, Citigroup and other lead-ing firms. At some points, MLT’s graduates numbered 30 percent and more of the minorities in leading business schools, Rice suggests. “We’ve developed a critical mass at these schools,” he added.
MLT’s programs address talented minority students at a variety of lev-els: Career Prep strengthens under-graduates, MBA Prep trains and pre-pares students to enter business school, and Career Advance steers mid-career professionals into train-ing for the executive suite. In 2010, MLT added a six-month MBA Professional Development program that helps students define their ideal job, fit into an organization and move up the organization.
Helen Summers, director of MBA Prep, based in Chicago, Ill., describes MBA Prep as a 10-month program that entails one-on-one coaching, a business curriculum, assignments and seminars targeted to help students develop a strong M.B.A. application. In 2010, 226 students were accepted into MBA Prep of the 711 students who applied, so about 30 percent were accepted.
Summers describes the ideal MBA Prep student as a minority student with at least one year and often several years of business experience, strong academic credentials such as a high GPA, involvement in the com-munity and demonstrated leadership skills. Moreover, MLT expects stu-dents to be coachable and open to feedback and suggestions. The average age of an MBA Prep student is 26 years old.
MBA Prep is only open to students of underrepresented minorities, namely African-Americans and Hispanics, but no financial data are requested, so candidates don’t have to be poor or working-class and can be middle-class or affluent. Of its MBA Prep students, African-Americans constitute 79 percent and Hispanics constitute 21 percent, making four of five students African-American.

John Rice, Founder, Management Leadership for Tomorrow

John Rice, Founder, Management
Leadership for Tomorrow

“That rigorous analysis of how we solve the problems of leadership tomorrow drives our results today.”
— John Rice, Founder, Management Leadership for Tomorrow

Why haven’t more Hispanics been accepted? “We’re trying to address that and work on it and have been working with different organizations to do more recruiting,” Summers said. She added that the number of Hispanics has been increasing steadily and will rise to 25 percent for the 2011 class. Rice added that MLT has formed partnerships with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and other nonprofits that should help fuel the Hispanic pipeline.
The cost of participating in MLT is nominal. Students pay a $400 application fee of which half is returned at the program’s conclu-sion. Many middle-class students don’t ask for reimbursement, donat-ing the rest of the fee to MLT. MLT partners pay for hotels and food when students are on campus, but MLT fellows (that’s how they’re described) pay airfare to seminars.
MBA Prep consists of five semi-nars: 1) Starting with a kickoff that covers setting expectations, meeting alumni and the basics such as résumé writing, defining career goals and meeting with coaches; 2) A summer seminar concentrating on meeting admissions officers and get-ting a better sense of what business schools are looking for; 3) A pre-application seminar that reviews how to sharpen the application and includes presentations from admission officers and mock interviews; 4) After the student has been accepted into an M.B.A. program, the fourth seminar discusses core skills required to succeed in business school; 5) Boot camp, which demonstrates how to succeed post-business school and secure a job in firms such as Goldman Sachs, Google and AT&T.
The one-on-one coach plays a pivotal role in preparing the MLT student for business school. Most coaches advise 40 to 48 students and guide them through the business school application. Coaches, who are often former admissions personnel or from industry, ask students pointed questions to improve their essay, review résumés and clarify their career aspirations.
The major skills taught in MBA Prep include “being able to clearly define and determine what you want, learning resiliency, an ability to man-age time and handle performance,” said Summers. Besides the pragmatic skills, students also need to “feel confident about their aspirations and know these opportunities are achievable,” Rice noted.
MBA Prep’s results have been impressive. Of its MBA Prep students, 95 percent who apply to business schools are accepted. MLT raises GMAT scores an average of 100 points, with 80 percent of its MBA Prep students scoring above 600 (out of 800), which makes them competitive for top 20 business schools.
For example, Michael Pages, a 30-year-old native of Hackensack, N.J., whose parents are Ecuadorian, was director of Institutional Advancement at the Future Leaders Institute, a charter school in Newark, N.J., in 2007, but wanted to make a career change into the finance industry. A school board member suggested Management Leadership for Tomorrow. He researched it, thought it could help him make the transition into an M.B.A. program, applied and was accepted in 2009.
Pages described MLT’s applica-tion process as rigorous and com-petitive. MLT serves as a “first screen to business school, so they want to make sure you are employable” and are business school material, he said. To be accepted into MBA Prep, Pages wrote two essays describing his short-term and long-term goals, presented two recommendations, was interviewed by telephone and submitted his 3.5 GPA from Amherst University. He also took a practice GMAT and scored above 500.
In MBA Prep, Pages participated in weekend seminars at the University of Minnesota and Emory University in Atlanta and a boot camp in New York. The first MLT seminar concentrated on participants determining what their passion was, where they could see themselves in five years and identifying their career path. “That will help you secure employment and be happy and successful,” Pages said.

“We’re trying to address that and work on it and have been working with different organizations to do more recruiting.”
— Helen Summers, Director of MBA Prep, Management Leadership for Tomorrow
Helen Summers, Director of MBA Prep, Management Leadership for Tomorrow

Helen Summers, Director of MBA Prep,
Management Leadership for Tomorrow

At the second MLT conference, Pages interacted with admissions per-sonnel from the top 15 business schools to determine what exactly they were looking for in a candidate and establish a good fit between him and the school. Meeting one-on-one clarified the application process and what each school was looking for. Pages found the conferences “inspirational” because he was surrounded by professors and admissions staff from around the country. Moreover, socializing with the other MLT fellows renewed his sense of purpose.
At the boot camp, students are expected to be impeccably dressed, on time and to act professionally, Pages said. Those skills will enable MBA Prep graduates to eventually be hired.
Because he wanted to remain living in New York City, Pages applied to Columbia and New York University business schools and was accepted by both. “MLT made sure we got the details right, and our essays were spot-less. A single error could hold you back,” he said.
Pages is finishing his final year at Columbia Business School. Through Columbia, he applied for a job at Goldman Sachs and was accepted. He interned at the firm in the summer of 2010 and after graduating in spring 2011 will become an associate in Private Wealth Management. At his new job, he’ll provide financial expertise to foundations, nonprofits and wealthy individuals. His main goal is to help nonprofits stretch their dollars and derive a better return on their charitable dollars.
Why do Hispanics and minority students need a support program like MLT? Pages replied that most minority students lack role models and MLT supplies plenty of them. “We don’t have a Hispanic Ivy channel. MLT pro-vides the resources to make sure we’re successful,” he said. Summers added that much of succeeding and getting into business school derives from informal networks of family and friends, which most first-generation minority students’ lack. “We formalize mentors,” she noted.
Financing an M.B.A., which on average costs about $80,000 for a two-year program, can be daunting. MLT doesn’t offer scholarships but helps students track down financial grants. Minority students should not be deterred because “acquiring an M.B.A. positions students for future success,” Summers noted.
Pages said, “Without MLT, I wouldn’t be where I am. I had the drive, brains and intellectual curiosity, but without mentors and support, you don’t get where you want to go.” To give back to the nonprofit, he speaks about leadership and his experiences at MLT’s boot camp and seminars.
Despite the recession’s effect on Wall Street, which provides a prime source of funding, MLT has withstood the economic downturn. Rice says that its budget was flat in 2008 through 2010, but in 2011 it is rising to $7 million from $6 million the previous year due to its diversified funding.
“Why isn’t higher education providing the real-world learning of MLT?” Rice asks rhetorically. Higher education could do a better job of preparing students for business careers beyond concentrating in accounting, finance or their major.
MLT sees its programs as not just helping individuals but also strength-ening communities. It expects that as MBA Prep graduates move up the corporate ladder and into middle management positions they will volun-teer in the community, serve on boards, create jobs, act as a role model, and mentor other people, creating a cycle of success.

Study Reveals How the Economic Downturn Is Affecting College Choice

Some students choose a college based on academics, career aspirations, the institution’s reputation, quality of faculty, location, student body and athletic facilities. But the 2010 College Decision Impact Survey financed by Fast Web, a scholarship-matching engine owned by Monster Worldwide and Maguire Associates, an education consulting firm based in Concord, Mass., reveals that money is an increasingly important factor impacting college choice. Indeed, two-thirds of the 800 students surveyed online, about a third of whom are minority, said that family economics influenced their college selection.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and and author of a book due out this fall, Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, says that economic factors are playing an increasingly prominent role in determining which college students attend. “If they can’t afford the school,they won’t go – no matter how good the school is,” he stated.

Because many Latino students are the first-generation in their family to apply to college, their parents can’t offer much help with completing complicated financial aid forms and college applications, explained Alejandra Rincón, vice president of programs at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) based in San Francisco, Calif. Indeed many Latino students are surprised to learn that they can apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), compete for grants and scholarships and don’t have to take out loans to finance their entire college education.

When affordability impacts college choice,graduation rates decline, Kantrowitz said. More students are gravitating to community colleges because they’re less expensive than four-year colleges. Students who begin higher education in community college earn a bachelor’s degree at a rate 14.5 percent less than students who begin in four-year colleges. American higher education“is moving in the wrong direction. We should be increasing the number of bachelor’s degrees,not decreasing them,” he said.

Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher, and

Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher, and

Because community colleges are cost effective and money is playing a greater role, Rincón noted that about two-thirds of Latinos begin higher education at junior colleges. Though most two-year colleges offer remedial education,liberal arts courses and increasingly specialized and technical programs, Rincón said that most students who start there fail to earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. She urges students to make sure to take credit-bearing classes that will transfer to a four-year college.

Despite the economic recession, most students have not opted to take a year or two off,save money and then attend college, the survey noted. Both Kantrowitz and Rincón say that starting college immediately is the best route to take.“Data show that students who delay don’t return to college. They start earning money and think they don’t have to earn an associate degree. They don’t think long-term,” explained Rincón. Kantrowitz adds that students who take a year off get out of the habit of studying and can lose their academic drive.

Moreover, lower-income and minority students are opting in greater numbers to attend state colleges to trim costs. The survey revealed that 71 percent of Latino students were pursuing state colleges, and 62 percent of Caucasians.

But state college fees are rising. Kantrowitz warns that many state colleges, which have been a major destination for many minorities, are increasing tuition and other fees due to state budgetary woes. Tuition is rising at double-digit increases, including state colleges in California,where tuition will spike 32 percent; Florida, 15percent; and Arizona, about 10 percent. In are cession, state income tax revenue decreases,higher education budgets are cut, and the only discretionary item left is raising tuition.

Even before the financial crisis, many Latino students were living at home and attending college in proximity to where they reside. Rincón notes that frequently private colleges located far from home are the schools that offer the most scholar-ships and financial aid, which can make college more affordable than staying close to home.

Having fewer Latino and minority students attend private colleges is contributing to lowering minority graduation rates, Kantrowitz assert-ed. Private colleges have higher graduation rates because they often have smaller student-faculty ratios and provide more counseling and supportive services than larger public and state colleges. One reason why private colleges are more expensive, he says, is the cost of additional faculty, facilities and services offered. Kantrowitz added that private colleges are wooing lower-income students by increasing the number of need-based financial aid scholarships.

Understanding the Net Cost of a College Education

Students are increasingly paying attention to the net cost of a college education. Kantrowitz defines net cost as the actual price of tuition, room and board, and books after subtracting money derived from grants and scholarships. If the college costs $20,000 annually, including room, board and books, and a student received$8,000 in need-based aid from the college,$4,000 from Pell Grants and $1,000 in an additional scholarship, the net cost would be $7,000,which the family or student would need to provide from savings or by taking out loans.

Recognizing that lower-income students are being closed out of private colleges by rising college costs, 6,000 colleges have adopted no-loan financial aid, replacing loans with college-financed grants. But Kantrowitz said that this approach has not resulted in attracting more low-income and working-class students. Since colleges haven’t established specified admission policies for lower-income students, the number of students applying for these loans has risen dramatically and more middle-class students are earning them, not low-income students. The only way to boost the number of minority students would be to develop criteria that offer certain advantages to lower-income students.

Because of rising college costs, more students are applying for need-based financial aid. Some colleges offer aid primarily to the neediest students while others spread their financial aid among all students who meet the criteria.

For-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix are showing an increase in minority enrollment because these schools are afford-able, have open admissions policies and help students gain federal loans. Some for-profit colleges have been criticized, however, for accepting students who aren’t equipped to repay their college loan. “It’s not clear whether for-profit colleges are serving the underserved population or exploiting it,” Kantrowitz said.

Because of the economic slowdown, a greater number of students are applying to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) for financial aid. Of HSF’s total funding, $21 million stems from the Gates Millennium Scholars program.Eligible students are Latino residents or citizens with a 3.3 GPA who meet federal income guide-lines. The average scholarship offers $12,000 a year and covers undergraduate education, but also finances master’s and doctoral programs in the following disciplines – science, math, engineering, computer science education, library science, public health. The other HSF scholar-ships provide $7 million in funding for Latino residents or citizens with a 3.0 GPA, based on their writing three essays and attending an accredited university. Last year, 3,000 scholar-ships were awarded, averaging $2,500 a year.

What are Kantrowitz’s best tips for minority students who want to be accepted into the college of their choice?

1) Submit the free application for federal student aid. Last year, 2.3 million students who would have qualified for Pell Grants didn’t apply.

2) If you need to borrow money for college,look for federal loans first. They are less expen-sive than bank loans.

3) Consider joining AmeriCorps, which provides $5,500 maximum (same as Pell Grants) in scholarship money annually for volunteers.

4) Apply for the Hope Scholarship TaxCredit, which provides up to $2,500 in tax credit based on a percentage of tuition and fees, of which $1000 is refundable.

5) Start saving $100 a month for 10 years at 6 percent or more interest, and that will ease the need to borrow.

Alejandra Rincón,VP, Hispanic Scholarship Fund  

Alejandra Rincón,VP, Hispanic Scholarship Fund


Financial aid websites can help students obtain the $3.5 billion in scholarship money that was awarded in 2009. Students who use, for example, fill out a questionnaire, which takes about a half-hour to complete.Based on a student’s data, the site recommends the best scholarships to apply for. Because of there cession, scholarship money is more competitive than ever, but students who don’t apply are“leaving money on the table,” Kantrowitz said.

HSF’s Rincón offers six tips for Latino students interested in applying to college:

1) Start early, during freshman or sophomore years, to research colleges and financial aid. Do not wait until senior year when the dead-lines approach, which is far too late.

2) Challenge yourself academically in high school, which increases your chances of gaining college acceptance. Take algebra, advanced math and Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

3) Apply to at least four colleges, including one state and one private, and see how much scholarship money the private college offers.

4) If you need to take out loans, keep them to a minimum. Some students take out excessive loans, beyond what college costs are, and end up having to pay too much money back.

5) Reach out to the Hispanic College Fund, MALDEF and Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, which has listings of scholarships offered to Latinos.

6) Even after gaining acceptance to college and starting as a freshman, continue to apply for scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to students in college as sophomores and juniors, so the persistent students gain the financial aid.

Choosing the best college for the right price depends on how much a family needs to borrow. Kantrowitz considers borrowing $10,000 a year as the maximum. “If you need to borrow more than that, consider another college,” he said.Strapping a graduating student with $40,000 to$50,000 or more over four years in college debts requires many students to repay the loan over 30years, which means considerable extra interest.

Mark C. Taylor, author of Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, noted in a New York Times Op-Ed piece that, if recent trends continue, the price of a four-year education at a top-tier college will spike to $330,000 in 2020. He noted that “financial aid is drying up and government support is not keeping pace with the rising cost of college; students and parents are being forced to borrow more heavily.” Kantrowitz said college costs are rising at about 6 percent to 8 percent a year, but Pell Grantshave not risen appreciably in the last few years.

Economic concerns should not prevent Latino or other students from attending college, Rincón suggested. Colleges “open up so many opportunities in life. You’ll make more money, but it also affords first-generation Latinos the life their parents dreamed of for them. It enriches your life,and you’ll lead a better life for it,” she said.



15 Tips for Minority Students to Get Accepted into Ivy League and Elite Colleges

Being admitted into an Ivy League university or elite private college is competitive for first-generation minority students or any high school student. But most minority students must compete for limited spots in the freshman class without the help of Princeton Review and Kaplan prep classes, advice from costly private college consultants, or mentoring by college-educated parents. Despite the obstacles, talented minority students are finding ways to get through the Ivy League gates (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale) and be admitted to first-tier colleges.

The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine

The competition is fierce. Robert Jackson, Yale University’s director of minority recruitment, told The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine in January 2010 that in 2009 Yale received 14,000 applications for 1,100 freshman spots, so about one of 14 or about 7 percent were admitted. Lily Trayes, director of Ivy League Placement, a New York-based college counseling service; Pam Proctor, author of The College Hook: Packaging Yourself to Win the College Admissions Game; and Rod Bugarin, a former admissions officer at Columbia University and Brown University and currently a regional director of RecruitZone, offer tips on what a minority student must do to be accepted into these prestigious colleges.

Pam Proctor adds that elite colleges are looking for a threelegged stool: top SAT scores; high GPAs; and one attribute, skill or experience that sets a student apart from the others.

Experts say that Ivy League colleges haven’t lessened their commitment to diversity and have sustained financial aid to deserving students despite the economic recession. Proctor says elite colleges are “still looking for talented minorities. Colleges are particularly mining for students who may be off the radar screen and yet have motivation, drive and intellectual capacity to make it.” Trayes adds that Ivy League and highly selective colleges “want their population to be diverse in terms of ethnicity and finances.”

Students who apply to Ivy League colleges must have high GPAs and SAT scores. But Trayes relates an anecdote of three students applying to the Ivy Leagues, two of whom had the highest-possible SAT scores and the other close behind but spoke five languages. The first two were rejected, and the polyglot student was admitted. Hence Ivy League schools want more than high scores. Proctor adds that elite colleges are looking for a three-legged stool: top SAT scores; high GPAs; and one attribute, skill or experience that sets a student apart from the others, like a competitive edge in a business.

Trayes says that being a minority student with top scores is an advantage, not a handicap. “A student that represents cultural diversity and has the scores and transcripts that meet what colleges are looking for has an advantage,” she says. These elite colleges are looking to raise their percentage of Hispanic, African-American and Native American students and their diversity statistics.

The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine

Bugarin says that Ivy League admissions staff look at SAT and GPA scores in the context of a student’s school and background. “We’d expect scores to be higher from a student from a well-funded school with ample resources. Social factors were acknowledged,” he said. These schools want to see “leadership, having the ability to influence and impact others positively through academics and activities, possessing these traits that you don’t see in others.”

But if Ivy League colleges are so dedicated to diversity, why do most have Hispanic and African-American populations between 4 percent to 8 percent when both ethnicities number about 14 percent each of Americans? Trayes blames the public school system, stating that most minority students attend urban schools that aren’t preparing students to handle the demanding curriculum of elite colleges. Bugarin added that many minority students don’t take advanced math and science, and that excludes them from consideration.

Here are 15 insider tips on how talented minority students can compete for Ivy League and elite colleges:

Tip No. 1 – Lay the foundation in high school

Ivy League and elite colleges are looking for students who have taken the most challenging courses in high schools. Students who take AP and honor classes fit that description. Students who sleepwalk through high school and don’t take the toughest math, science and English classes won’t meet the criteria.

Tip No. 2 – Market yourself to college

Just as colleges market to students, students must promote and market themselves to colleges, Proctor explains. “Most students don’t like to sell themselves,” she says. But to gain entry, students must think about how they want to present themselves and highlight their strengths.

Tip No. 3 – Find the hook

Every student has a powerful story to tell but must discover the hook or differentiating point. Just being Latino isn’t enough of a hook; students must unearth a personal and individual story that serves as a cornerstone of their life. For example, Proctor says one student wrote about a summer he spent taking care of his autistic brother, demonstrating what he learned about himself and how it changed his relationship with his family, creating a powerful essay. That anecdote served as the hook that enabled him to be accepted by a first-rate college. Exemplifying students with a hook, one year Barnard College accepted a state’s top amateur golfer, a Leaders of Tomorrow scholarship winner, a finalist in the Odyssey of the Mind competition, a circus trapeze performer and a finalist in a Shakespeare oratory competition. In her book, Proctor notes that most high school students are too busy to ask themselves, “What’s the one thing that sets me apart?” Most Ivy League schools want superstars, so students must demonstrate that 20 years down the road they’ll make a significant impact on society. Colleges are looking for “passion, something about you that reveals what you are doing, suggests your potential to contribute to the campus,” Proctor says. In addition, they pursue students who have overcome great obstacles.

Tip No. 4 – Reach out to the college

Many colleges have a diversity admissions officer, whose names often can be identified on their websites. Send an e-mail, or contact that person, expressing your interest. Ask questions about what you need to include in your application. Ask to visit the campus and speak to minority students. Take initiative.

Tip No. 5 – Take teacher recommendations seriously

Some students see recommendations from their college advisor or English or math teacher as an afterthought, but they can play a role in boosting your application. If a high school guidance counselor writes in a recommendation that the student helped transform the high school by his or her leadership, that can strengthen a student’s application.

Tip No. 6 – Participate in diverity weekends

Many colleges hold diversity weekends to familiarize talented high school students, including sophomores and juniors, with the campus. Some of these colleges offer stipends to attend the weekend. Bates College, Lehigh University, Whitman College, Williams Colleges are some schools that organize diversity weekends.

Tip No. 7 – Find your voice in the personal essay

The essay should reveal the applicant’s personality. “Colleges use the essay to get to know the student in a personal way,” Trayes says. One trap is having someone else write or guide the essay, which leads to an overly polished and slickly written essay, and displeases most admission directors. Proctor adds that the opening line should serve as a summary of the entire essay and serve as a hook to interest the reader, comparable to the lead of an Associated Press news story.

Tip No. 8 – Do your homework and prepare for the interview

The interview should be like a “ping-pong” match or mutual conversation in which the student and admissions representative ask questions of each other. Don’t be passive; play an active role in the interview. Bringing a résumé to the interview, for example, a school’s multicultural or bioengineering program, indicating that the applicant researched the college. Come to the interview ready to discuss your strengths: what you bring to the college, what makes your background unique, an extraordinary or special experience that you’ve had, such as volunteering at a food kitchen or participating in statewide sports competition.

Tip No. 9 – Differentiate among Ivy League colleges

Bugarin noted that all Ivy League colleges aren’t alike. Columbia’s core curriculum differs from Brown’s open curriculum. He advises that students research what is expected of them in certain majors and then consider those differences when writing the application. Students need to make a “match” with the specific college, he suggested.

Tip No. 10 – Create a winning application

What does it take to create a winning application? Prove to the college that you will be an asset and leader on campus. The college wants to see that a student is independent, mature and responsible; most campuses don’t want to babysit students. After the admissions department finishes reading the application, the representative should think, “This kid is a leader, a go-getter, and we have to get this student on campus.”

Tip No. 11 – Focus on the supplemental application

All the Ivy League colleges ask students to fill out a basic application plus a supplemental addition. Bugarin says that Yale asks specific questions about why you want to attend that college, and Brown wants to know why you want to major in science and engineering. “They’re looking to read between the lines and get to your ethos.”

Tip No. 12 – Network and tap resources 

Several nonprofits are dedicated to helping students find the right college, including the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, Questbridge and others. Find them on the Internet. If you’re interested in applying to an Ivy League college, go to your church or your parent’s union and see if anyone has graduated from there or if they have children who attend and ask questions about what it takes to be accepted.

Tip No. 13 – Don’t give up on independent counselors 

Although hiring an independent counselor costs thousands of dollars, Bugarin says that “any independent counselor worth their credibility should be able to give this advice on a pro-bono or discounted rate.” Ask your college advisor for a recommendation and offer the independent consultant what you can pay, and see what the answer is.

Tip No. 14 – Broaden your search beyond the Ivy League 

In addition to applying to Ivy League colleges, consider the next 25 to 50 top colleges that offer first-rate education. Trayes notes that the following first-tier colleges are attracting bright Latino and minority students – Union College, Hamilton College, Ithaca College and Wesleyan College in the Northeast; McAllister College, Grinnell College and Knox College in the Midwest; and Lake Forest College in the Southwest. And she added that Holy Cross College and Connecticut College don’t require the applicants submit SAT scores.

Tip No. 15 – Don’t let financial considerations serve as a deterrent

Ironically, Trayes says a low-income student has a “better chance of getting a full ride into an Ivy League college than attending a local college.” Most Ivy League colleges offer financial aid that will meet the demonstrated needs of students who fall below the poverty level or are economically disadvantaged. But minority students must prove and demonstrate that they can handle the academically competitive environment and not be overwhelmed by the environment and become cut off and isolated on an intense campus.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solís: Past and Present

Atthe Hunter College graduation ceremony in New York in spring 2009, Hilda L. Solís, who spent four terms as a California congresswoman, gave the keynote speech. She related an incident that happened to her in high school in La Puente, Calif. At open school night, her guidance counselor told her mom that “Your daughter is not college material. Maybe she should follow the career of her older sister and become a secretary.” Solís did indeed become a secretary, but not the kind of secretary her guidance counselor envisioned. Solís was confirmed in February 2009 as the United States’ secretary of labor in President Obama’s Cabinet. She is the 25th secretary of labor in the country’s history and the first Latina named a Cabinet member.

Solís ended her Hunter College address by saying, “People always say that women, people of color, Latinas, aren’t ready to go to college; they’re not ready to be in these big positions. There are probably a dozen of you in this hall who are future Sonia Sotomayors, and there are probably twodozen future Hilda Solises. You have to have the desire to do it.”

Solís is so highly regarded that Michael Moore, Oscar-winning director of Bowling for Columbine and Capitalism: A Love Story, interviewed in Rolling Stone, called Solís as labor secretary an “inspiring choice. I’d like to see her out front more when the administration is talking about the economy.”

Solís, who is 51 years old and married, recognized that education was the ticket out of her working-class background and into launching a professional career. Solís graduated from California State Polytechnic University with a degree in political science in 1979. Two years later, she earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Southern California.

Hilda Solis

Her career in politics started modestly, as a summer intern, in 1981. As part of her master’s program, she edited a newsletter in the capital and made some contacts.

She worked in the White House during the Carter years, as White House officer of Hispanic affairs. In that role, she saw the impact and influence that elected officials could have. During the Reagan years, she was a management analyst in the civil rights division of the Office of Management and Budget but felt that the administration downplayed civil rights issues and resigned.

In 1992, Solís was elected to the California State Assembly and in 1994 became the first Latina elected to the California state Senate. Proving true to her working-class roots, she initiated a bill to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour, in 1996. It passed. In 2001, she was elected congresswoman and held that position until 2009.

In this Q&A with The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine, Solís discusses what drove her to succeed in education, overcoming negative expectations, and her major plans as labor secretary.

The Hispanic Outlook: Your guidance counselor in high school didn’t think you were college material, but that didn’t deter you at all. What drove you to attend college and advance to obtain a master’s degree?

Hilda Solís: In high school, I was told by the counselor assigned to me that I was not suited for college but best suited for clerical work. But I didn’t listen to him. I had a loving, supporting family and friends who pushed me to do better. I also had the support of another counselor at my high school that encouraged me to go on and pursue a college degree. He wasn’t my assigned counselor, but he reached out to me and truly changed my life. That counselor’s name was Roberto Sánchez. It was Mr. Sánchez who looked into financial aid options and helped me fill out my college application forms. If it hadn’t been for his mentorship and encouragement, I’m not sure I would have gone to college and then pursued a graduate degree.

HO: How did you overcome these negative expectations?

Solís: My parents are both humble people. My mother immigrated to this country from Nicaragua and worked in a local toy factory. Meanwhile my father worked as a laborer, a farmworker, a railroad worker and a Teamsters shop steward in a battery recycling plant. Though our family could not afford college, my parents stressed the value of a good education. My family always pushed me to succeed, and I chose not to listen to people that put me down. I also had the support of Mr. Sánchez, who served as my mentor. I followed my parents’ example and worked hard in school. This work ethic and my father’s advice – “Question everything; don’t just accept other people’s opinions” – is what helped me overcome negative expectations. And am I glad I listened to his advice! I am proud to have been the first in my family to graduate from college.

HO: You attended an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at California State Polytechnic University. What impact did this program have on you?

Solís: EOP allowed me to have a rich and wonderful educational experience. The support I received through the program helped me do well in my classes and empowered me to pursue my goals, like earning a master’s degree.

HO: What were the key issues you fought for as a congresswoman in California from 2001 to 2009?

Solís: In Congress, I fought to protect and expand workers’ rights. In 2007, for example, I helped pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and raised the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years. I was also proud to co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would level the playing field for workers who want to join a union. I also authored and introduced the Green Jobs Act, which authorized up to $125 million in funding to establish national and state job-training programs, to help address job shortages that are impairing growth in green industries, such as energy-efficient buildings and construction, renewable electric power, energy-efficient vehicles and biofuels development. Expanding access to and reducing disparities in health care and advancing women’s rights were also issues I focused on. I led the effort to renew the Violence Against Women Act in 2005, which included two provisions I authored to help immigrants and women of color who are victims of domestic violence.

HO: What are the major issues you’re focusing on as labor secretary?

Solís: My primary goal as secretary of labor is to provide good jobs for everyone and prepare our work force for the new jobs of the 21st century. This means we have to mobilize work force development and adult education systems to ensure workers have the required skills for careers in green jobs and health care that are being created, to participate in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and to improve their access to other good middle-class jobs. This also means expanding access to pensions for workers so as to ensure their economic well-being. I believe the Department of Labor will be able to measure the success of its work by whether we have been able to raise the standard of living for middle-class Americans.

HO: You described yourself as a fighter “for social justice, combating discrimination and racism and always stand up and fight for the underdog.” What actions will reflect those sentiments?

Solís: The Department of Labor’s mission is to foster and promote the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners and retirees of the United States. That also means protecting our most vulnerable workers in industries where abuses have traditionally taken place. This is why I am adding resources to several of our departments to ensure that workers are safe, treated fairly and are compensated for their work. My priority is good jobs for everyone.

HO: Working-class people have had a tough time. Manufacturing plants have closed; outsourcing has been stepped up. What can the labor secretary do to turn the tide?

Solís: The Department of Labor is working hard to help workers through these difficult times. We are training workers so that they can be competitive in the new economy. One way we are helping workers is by ensuring they have the skills to compete for quality, sustainable jobs. The Department of Labor has injected $3.5 billion in worker-training funds into state-training programs from the Recovery Act. We hope to add to recovery investments with our fiscal year 2010 budget request of $8.7 billion for employment and training programs. I also believe we have a fundamental responsibility to protect workers from unsafe workplaces and to protect workers from unjust labor practices. That is why I am adding resources to the Wage and Hour Division, hiring more OSHA compliance safety and health officers and increasing the number of enforcement staff in the Employee Benefits Security Administration. In a single year, we will be adding nearly 670 investigators, inspectors and other program staff. We are returning our worker-protection efforts to a level not seen since the Clinton administration. I am also making the well-being of our workers a big priority for my department, and through the Recovery Act, we are modernizing unemployment insurance. This reform is especially critical for low-wage workers and others who more recently entered the labor market. The definition would also be extended to include unemployed part-time workers who seek new part-time work and for whom full-time work is not an option.

HO: The economic situation has been bleak. Unemployment is near 10 percent and higher in certain states. What job-training programs are proving effective?

Solís: Yes, we are facing extremely high unemployment rates, and these workers are the top priority of this administration. As I stated earlier, the Department of Labor has injected nearly $4 billion in worker-training funds into state-training programs from the Recovery Act. We know that the most effective job training is always based on local labor market needs and matching training opportunities to real jobs that are in demand. Job seekers should work with specialists in local One Stop Career Centers to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information about available jobs, and the best training providers to compete for those jobs. It is also worth mentioning that certain sectors have seen growth nationally – health careers, jobs in the education sector and jobs in emerging sectors like green technologies. The Department of Labor has made $720 million in Recovery Act funds available in competitive grants for training in these areas, including high-growth and emerging industries.

How Is the Economy Affecting Private College Enrollments?

Despite a terrible recession, rising unemployment and scandals about college loan programs, enrollment at most private American colleges is holding its own, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Indeed 74 percent of the 300 private institutions surveyed reported that enrollment was steady, and 5 percent said that they were seeing an increase in student admissions. Overall student enrollment in fall 2009
rose a modest 0.2 percent.

What prompted the survey was interest from Capitol Hill, explains Tony Pals, director of public
information at NAICU, based in Washington, D.C. “There was concern among policymakers
about the impact that the credit freeze has been having on institutions of higher education and
the ability of students to afford and attend these institutions,” he said.

How Private Colleges Maintain Steady Enrollment

The bottom line of this report is that private colleges are doing better at maintaining enrollment than many people feared. Pals attributed the steady numbers at most private higher education institutions to “actions taken by the federal government to boost funding for Pell Grants, federal work-study grants and student loans.” Moreover, colleges deserve credit based on keeping tuition increases down to enhance affordability. He noted that tuition rose by 4.3 percent from 2008 to 2009 at its 955 member colleges, the smallest increase in 37 years. Yet critics say that raising tuition even 4 percent at a time when the unemployment rate hit 9 percent and many people’s incomes were shrinking might still make affording college problematic for many students, particularly the working class and poor.

Sally Springer, co-author with Jon Reider and Marion Franck of Admission Matters: What
Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College and an associate chancellor
emerita at University of California-Davis, attributes the steady enrollment to colleges “working hard to provide as much financial aid as possible to hard-pressed families. In general, they’ve responded more positively to student aid appeals than in the past, increased the size of awards and number of students receiving aid.” They also were more receptive to students who required little or no financial aid than they were in the past.

College presidents surveyed in the report also noted that the actions of policymakers to increase financial aid helped private institutions maintain their admission numbers. “However, we aren’t out of the woods yet, and everyone needs to be watching the situation closely,” Pals says.

2010 a look back

Ironically, tough economic times are helping private colleges sustain enrollment. “In times of unemployment, more people go to college,” notes Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, a service organization of 600 private colleges, based in Washington, D.C. Students are attending colleges to become health care professionals and teachers to replace manufacturing and others jobs that have been downsized or eliminated. In addition, private colleges are tuition-driven and rely less on shrinking state aid than public colleges. “Therefore the impact of the financial downturn isn’t felt immediately,” he says of the independents.

To make college more affordable and boost enrollment, private colleges increased institutional aid by 9 percent from 2008 to 2009, the NAICU survey reported. That aid made a major impact on helping students afford the cost of private college tuition and broadened their appeal. Moreover, colleges had to become more flexible to maintain their student population by extending admission deadlines, stepping up financial aid counseling and reaching out to waiting lists. Ekman says that private colleges are increasing aid and grants to help students move away from burdensome loans. Many colleges have augmented student work programs in which students are paid above minimum wage salaries to perform jobs that help pay their tuition. And intensifying intervention with students facing financial aid or academic issues that could lead to dropping out. “Financial aid offices are redoubling their efforts and encouraging students to come to see them before a major problem occurs,” Ekman says.

Many private colleges have also stepped up marketing and recruitment efforts to keep enrollment numbers humming. Institutions are “reaching out to students to reassure them that a private college education is affordable and attainable,” Pals said. Colleges are also tapping alumni by asking for referrals and encouraging positive word of mouth. Ekman adds that only a handful of private colleges are highly selective and get several times the number of applicants for every available admissions slot. Private colleges operate in a “very competitive marketplace,” he adds.

Where Admissions Are Declining

Despite steady enrollment numbers achieved by three out of four colleges, 21 percent of colleges reported a decline, a cause of concern. Ekman senses that most of those hard-pressed colleges are located in states such as Michigan, battered by high unemployment and the loss of auto manufacturing and related jobs, making it difficult for parents to finance their children’s college costs.

Students too have been affected by the recession, which has cut into their ability to take a full credit load. Indeed, 26 percent of all private colleges reported an increase in students changing from fulltime to part-time status, and if that number increases, it could affect graduation rates in the future.

Trinity Washington

At Trinity Washington University, a private college in Washington, D.C., where the student population is 65 percent African-American and 20 percent Hispanic, enrollment rose to 1,900 students in 2009 from 1,800 in 2008. Ninety-five percent of its students receive financial aid, and 60 percent of its full-time students obtain Pell Grants. Tuition costs $19,300 annually at this college, which has an all-women Arts and Science College but is co-ed in its School of Education and professional schools like nursing.

“We offer a tuition discount, which averages 40 percent for every student,” explains Patricia McGuire, its president since 1989. Institutional aid from the college explains the reduced cost of tuition. “Our mission is to make higher education accessible to the women of Washington, D.C., and Prince Georges County,” she says. Despite its modest $8 million endowment, the university’s thriving professional schools help lower the cost of its undergraduate education. Most undergraduates pay an average of $2,000 out of pocket plus taking out loans to finance their education.

Tough economic times have affected students at Trinity Washington. Many hold part-time jobs, and some freshmen juggle full-time jobs with undergraduate studies. “Most are self-supporting and don’t have mom and dad paying the bills,” McGuire adds. The school uses its Facebook page as a way of communicating with students, which can help faculty learn if a student is facing academic or financial problems and lead to counselors intervening.

“Our secret is not recruiting or marketing. Our secret is high-quality education to underprepared students,” says McGuire. Its required freshman curriculum emphasizes reading skills in every class, trains students in math and tests them on critical benchmarks in reading and writing. “We provide extensive one-on-one support and tutoring,” McGuire adds. “Just because a student comes to us with poor math skills doesn’t mean she’s doomed to failure,” she notes.

Hence, its academic standards have built the college’s reputation. So have successful graduates of Trinity Washington such as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, Kathleen Sebelius, currently secretary of health and human services in President Obama’s Cabinet and former governor of Kansas, and Cathie Black, CEO of Hearst magazines and author of the best-seller Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead in Work (and in Life).

Although state subsidies are channeled into public colleges and community colleges, private colleges also benefit from state financial aid for students. And when state subsidies are cut, private colleges feel the impact. In the NAICU survey, 32 percent of private colleges responding reported a decline in state aid, and 19 percent noted an increase.

Private Colleges Still Reaching Out to Minorities

The NAICU survey did not gather data regarding how the recession is affecting minority and Latino students attending independent colleges. Pals noted that private colleges “are concerned about the enrollment from all ethnic groups and concerned about maintaining access to students of all backgrounds.” Ekman adds that private colleges strive to create a diverse student body in many ways: economically, ethnically, racially and geographically. “Nearly every one of our presidents is committed to raising scholarship money,” he says, to maintain diversity.

Author Springer sees most private colleges striving to maintain their diverse student body despite the financial pressures. Many encourage applicants from underrepresented community and assign designated staff to oversee minority recruitment. Colleges also use financial aid stipends to promote access. But once minority students arrive on campus, they need to be “welcomed and supported” in order to stay and graduate, and most colleges are well aware of this, Springer adds.

Springer also notes that most public universities are facing the same economic pressure as private colleges. She recommends that when students apply to college they create a list of goodfit schools that includes one or two they’re confident they will be accepted into and can afford. She also notes that community colleges serve as the gateway for many students because they’re inexpensive and students can transfer to a fouryear college without losing time.

To survive in tough economic times, private colleges are turning entrepreneurial. Some are starting master’s programs for teachers to attract new students. Georgetown College, a liberal arts college in Georgetown, Ky., rents its athletic fields to the Cincinnati Bengals, the professional football team, for training camp to generate funds. Ottawa University, a small private college in Ottawa, Kan., opened satellite campuses in Overland Park, Kan., Phoenix, Ariz., Brookfield, Wis., and Jeffersonville, Ind., for professional studies and to appeal to working adults.

Minority students are encouraged to seize the initiative in looking for scholarship and grant money. Don’t wait for the adviser to contact you. Do research on the Web, write letters to colleges, meet with financial aid counselors at your number one college, and ask for assistance from high school guidance counselors and family members who have graduated from college.

Trouble Brewing if Recession Continues

Pals notes that if the economic downturn continues, “we could see a number of other budgetary cuts” at private colleges – “additional layoffs or further salary freezes or cuts.” Moreover, the number of private colleges closing could increase. NAICU reported that only five colleges closed in 2008, which Pals attributes to their “inability to fill a market niche.” Based on the NAICU report, the message to students is clear, Pals says. “Despite the recession, private college education is still possible, attainable and affordable. Despite sticker shock, no student should rule out private college.” He cautioned, however, that in these tough times, private colleges must “demonstrate and communicate their value to consumer and that they’re worth the out-of-pocket costs.”