Colleges navigate price of success for low-income students
- The Hechinger Report profiles several schools with models for admitting low-income students from diverse ethnic backgrounds towards graduation — a practice which breaks with current trends among most public college and university systems.
- Initiatives like the City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) offers eligible students free tuition, support with paying for textbooks, counseling and help with transportation costs. The result has been a 40% graduation rate within the first three years of the program, which nearly doubled the rate for the same group of students prior to its creation.
- But these kind of programs don't come without casualties. Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio will discontinue its support program for low-income minority students, citing a $2.7 million cost which was mostly funded by grants and too expensive to expand or maintain into the future. “We wish we could do this for every student, but it’s just not financially feasible,” said Lisa Williams, vice president of learning and engagement at Cuyahoga.
The easy answer for colleges and universities looking to implement student success programs for low-income and minority students is better levaraging federal grants. But with recent proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Education's funding for minority scholarships and bridge programs, the ask for these kinds of funds will become more difficult.
Most programs which offer low-income students grants and stipends for educational expenses usually have an easy time of finding donors to support these initiatives. A reformed fundraising model at schools which are dependent or mission-driven to support low-income students could be in order; contacting donors to convert restricted funds to wider-reaching scholarship programs, asking corporate partners to match merit-based scholarship programs, and working with faith communities to yield congregational support for certain students could be simple options with big results for deserving students.