Wal-Mart Foundation Grant of $2.266 Million Will Support “Wal-Mart College Success Awards”
The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) announced today that the Wal-Mart Foundation has awarded the Council a $2.266 million grant to establish and implement the “Wal-Mart College Success Awards.” This is the largest single grant that CIC has ever received.
The new Wal-Mart College Success Awards will provide $100,000 grants to 20 small and mid-sized independent colleges and universities, selected competitively, that are already deeply committed to the education of first-generation students. The awards will help the selected institutions to build on demonstrated successes and develop further the enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of first-generation college students. The grant will also support the preparation of a printed volume that is a compendium of “best practices” in recruiting and successfully educating first-generation students.
“We are proud to support organizations like the Council of Independent Colleges and their commitment to education,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation. “The Wal-Mart College Success Awards will support first-generation students who otherwise may choose against furthering their education in the face of other financial hardships.”
“CIC is delighted to have the opportunity to develop and administer this important program. We are grateful for the exceptionally generous grant,” said CIC President Richard Ekman in announcing the news. “More importantly, we are excited about the recognition that the grant gives to the role played by private colleges in educating first-generation students. Not only will 20 institutions be generously supported in their efforts, but the message to all the private colleges that help first-generation students is that their work is important,” Ekman added.
Recent research shows that first-generation college students are different in some salient ways from their peers whose parents have experience in higher education. Demographically, they are more likely to be poor, Hispanic, foreign-born, come from households in which English is not the primary language, have attended high school in small towns or rural communities, attend college closer to home, and have lower standardized test scores. These students are often also less well prepared academically and frequently lack support from family members, who are unfamiliar with the collegiate experience. Not surprisingly, they are often less prepared to find and use financial, informational, and social resources, sometimes resulting in less well informed decisions about the college application process, the college selection process, and financial aid options prior to college attendance. Once enrolled, they may make poor choices about course and co-curricular campus offerings.
However, Ekman said, “We estimate that a third of the undergraduate students enrolled at CIC’s 580 member colleges and universities are first-generation college-goers. Moreover, the success rate of these students in such settings is very high.” Data show that smaller independent institutions do a better job of ensuring the success of first-generation students:
• The six-year graduation rate of first-generation students at private institutions is 61 percent compared with only 44 percent at public institutions.
• The proportion of students from racial and ethnic minorities and from low- and middle-income families, who are more likely than other students to be first-generation, enrolled at independent institutions is comparable to the proportion at state institutions (29 percent at privates vs. 28 percent at publics).
• The proportion of low-income students (those with parental incomes of less than $20,000 per year) enrolled at small and mid-sized independent colleges and universities is the same or greater than at public four-year institutions. For example, low-income students, who are more likely to be first-generation college goers, make up 12 percent of the enrollment at smaller (nondoctoral) privates versus only 10 percent at larger (doctoral) publics.
• At-risk students, such as students who do not receive financial support from their parents or who must work full-time while attending college, enrolled at private colleges and universities are twice as likely to graduate in six years as at-risk students at public institutions.
“Small to mid-sized institutions work successfully with first-generation students for two major reasons: these institutions embody characteristics that foster student success, and they have a history of developing special programs that enhance retention and graduation among first-generation college students,” Ekman noted, citing a number of institutional characteristics associated with student learning and persistence and shared by CIC colleges:
• A climate of caring and personal attention to individual student needs by faculty members and staff;
• Involvement of students in shaping their own learning; and
• A strong connection with the community that surrounds the campus and sends their young people to be educated at the college.
Applications for the Wal-Mart College Success Awards are due by May 2, 2008. Successful applicants will begin their programs in August 2008. Selection criteria include: demonstration of commitment to first-generation students; creativity and innovation of the proposed program; and probability of significant and successful results from the program. In summer 2009, CIC will hold a conference for teams of faculty and staff members of participating institutions to share their successes and challenges and learn from experts as well as one another. The programs at the various colleges and universities will be further developed during the 2009–2010 academic year. A publication of best practices in educating first-generation students will be published early in 2011.
The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of more than 580 independent, liberal arts colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that work together to strengthen college and university leadership, sustain high-quality education, and enhance private higher education’s contributions to society. To fulfill this mission, CIC provides its members with skills, tools, and knowledge that address aspects of leadership, financial management and performance, academic quality, and institutional visibility. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.
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