North Central College continues to expand opportunities for low-income students

Jan 16, 2014

Providing increased funding for financial aid, continuing to grow low-income enrollment and sustaining an education program that serves high-need youths are among North Central College’s commitments to improving accessibility to higher education for all.

As President Barack Obama on Jan. 16 outlined his administration’s priorities to increase college opportunities, North Central College renewed its longstanding commitments to providing excellent, well-rounded liberal arts educations to students of all income levels.

“The White House summit brought attention to the need to make a college education more accessible and affordable for all students,” said Dr. Troy D. Hammond, North Central College president. “North Central College continues to provide opportunities for students from all economic backgrounds to experience the lifetime benefits of a liberal arts education.”

The number of North Central College undergraduates defined as low-income (receiving federal Pell grants) has increased steadily, from 444 in 2007-2008 to 757 in 2013-2014. Low-income students now account for 30 percent of North Central College’s total undergraduate enrollment.

“We continue to attract record numbers of students who want the high-quality education that North Central College provides,” says Martin Sauer, dean of admission and financial aid. “At the same time, our increased allocations for financial aid reflect our commitments to affordability and accessibility.”

North Central College’s commitment to financial aid has nearly doubled in five years to $35 million in 2013 from $18.5 million in 2008.

President Obama outlined four areas in which colleges and universities could make commitments to improving accessibility: helping low-income students connect with colleges; partnering with elementary, middle and high school students to encourage younger children to pursue higher education; boosting remedial programs so underprepared students have opportunities to succeed; and helping lower-income students gain better access to college advisers and prepare for entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.

North Central College’s Junior/Senior Scholars program is one example of how the College is meeting President Obama’s objectives. Established in 1988, Junior/Senior Scholars is a comprehensive college readiness program that partners with high-need elementary and secondary schools in Aurora and Chicago. The program directly supports hundreds of K-12 students each year with tutoring and mentoring services, while providing small group and school-wide programs to about 5,000 total children to date.

Of the seniors in the scholars program who recently graduated from high school, 100 percent were accepted at two or more colleges, says Dr. Janis Fitzsimmons, Junior/Senior Scholars program founder and executive director of North Central College’s Urban Education Laboratory.

“High school principals report that our senior scholars are among their very best scoring at ACT levels,” Fitzsimmons says.

In addition to the Junior/Senior Scholars program, hundreds of alumni of the College’s undergraduate and graduate programs in teacher and principal preparation take the message of being “college bound” to children they teach in high-need communities.

The College’s Teach First program is designed to increase the graduation rate among first-generation students.  Teach First aims to recruit and retain first-generation students who want to become teachers, and then provides the mentorship and resources to launch these students into a successful teaching career.

Another North Central College initiative, the Premier Scholars program, is a 10-day immersion into life at North Central and serves students who otherwise may face a disadvantage in college because of economic, cultural or educational circumstances. Premier is designed to assist first-year students in making a successful transition from high school to college and to support them through academic, social and other aspects of their collegiate experience.

“Since our founding in 1861 we have been committed to providing a strong education to students of all backgrounds and providing them with an education that prepares them for success in life,” Hammond said. “That commitment, consistent with the White House summit, has never been stronger than it is today.”