President Kent Trachte
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A recent Washington Post story reported that college enrollment of low-income students immediately following high school has fallen from 56 percent to 46 percent. Here at Lycoming College, one of our primary goals is to offer a distinctive liberal arts education to promising students, regardless of need.
Many of the young people referenced in the Post article are would-be first-generation college students from urban areas, a group that we know from demographic data will emerge as the fastest growing segment of the college-bound population. These students deserve serious consideration from higher education institutions — an approach that makes good business sense, because by investing in the future of talented young scholars, we are investing in the future of our communities and the nation.
When I joined Lycoming, one of our early initiatives was to form partnerships with leading national charter schools, specifically KIPP and YesPrep, to help to attract high-performing students from underrepresented groups. We subsequently expanded the partnerships to include the Noble Charter Schools in Chicago and leading access organizations like MOSTE (Southern California) and Say Yes to Education (Buffalo).
As you know — many of you first-hand — our College has a long tradition of educating first-generation college students, and we find that these students thrive in our environment of heightened personal attention. We also recognize that being academically capable is sometimes not enough to succeed in higher education, so we created a mentoring program and established cohort groups to help our partnership students succeed.
While we don’t yet have graduation data, already we are seeing dividends from the mentorship and cohort groups we have designed for these particular students. Retention is at or above the level of their fellow Lycoming students, and well beyond the level expected of students who come from such great distances and diverse backgrounds.
Since the 2008-09 school year, Lycoming’s financial aid budget has been increased by almost $7 million — a 41 percent increase. Ninety-five percent of our students qualify for financial aid; 35 percent are Pell-eligible and nearly 30 percent are first-generation college students, significant especially when compared to many of our peer institutions.
Lycoming could not be such a leader without the generosity of our alumni. I’m proud that we can work together to educate the most talented students who are the best fit for the mission of the College, irrespective of financial need.
Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Lycoming College.