Lycoming College has partnered with Strive for College to strengthen college opportunities for low-income, first-generation college students, who make up about 16 percent of its student body. Strive for College is a nonprofit that helps underserved area high school students apply to college and navigate the financial aid process.
According to the Department of Education, the national average for graduation rates at private 4-year institutions for all students who receive federal aid is 54 percent. Yet only about 52 percent of low-income students and 48 percent of first-generation students graduate within six years. Because of specially-designed programs, Lycoming graduates these students at a higher rate: 61 percent for low-income and 55 percent for first-generation. Strive’s programs promote and expand Lycoming’s existing programs and support services for these students.
“Lycoming College has a long tradition of providing access to high-performing students of modest means,” said Mike Konopski, vice president of enrollment management at Lycoming. “Adding Strive’s services to the retention programs we already have in place will continue to help more of these students graduate and enter the job market.”
Strive for College’s “I'm First!” program provides numerous resources to educators and students alike. College Partners have a learning forum where colleagues can share best-practices and successful programs for recruiting and retaining first-generation college students.
For students, ImFirst.org features student videos, blogs and advice. Students can research and connect with colleges like Lycoming. The site also features a collection of YouTube video stories from first-generation college students and graduates, like First Lady Michelle Obama, that inspire and offer advice to the next generation of students. Lycoming College is featured in the “I'm First! Guide to College,” the only comprehensive college guidebook for first-generation college-bound students.
Lycoming College already has a number of programs to help students address common challenges. Free tutoring for math, writing and other courses is available as is help with learning strong research practices. All new students are required to take a first-year seminar that teaches them about academic expectations and the array of services available to help them succeed. Because financial concerns are one of the main reasons students stop attending college, Lycoming College trustees recently established a Retention and Debt Reduction Fund to help those in need afford a high-quality education.
In addition to “I’m First!” programs, Strive for College’s virtual mentoring program connects aspiring college students with dedicated mentors to receive one-on-one guidance and support through the college admissions and financial aid application process. Strive’s custom-built technology platform has advanced communications features like video chat and data-powered college matching tools. Lycoming College is helping to mobilize mentors from its campus community and alumni network to assist students.