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National Report Highlights RU-N's Innovative Programs That Further Success of Pell-eligible Students

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Pictured: HLLC scholars discuss the roles of mentors and mentees during an orientation session; photo by Anthony Alvarez.

Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is featured in a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) today, Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need: Advancing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students, which focused on highlighting institutions across the country that are making significant strides in increasing graduation rates among Pell-eligible students.

“For students from low- and moderate-income families, a college degree is the surest path to the middle class in our country. I applaud the colleges and universities that have taken measurable steps to open up this pathway and make it a successful one for students from all backgrounds. But we need these types of efforts to become the rule and not the exception,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has worked to ensure more Americans have the opportunity to get a quality, affordable higher education, with promising results—more students are graduating college than ever before.  But many American families still feel that college may be out of reach. 

Colleges and universities have a responsibility to expand access to all students and offer targeted supports for low-income students. The report is also a call to action for institutions with significant gaps between completion rates for Pell recipients and overall completion rates, as well as institutions that have positive outcomes but enroll too few low-income students.

"For us to thrive as a diverse democracy and for individuals to achieve their dreams of success, higher education must fulfill its promise of providing opportunity to all students, regardless of their race, gender, or income level. That opportunity means access, but getting into college is not enough. It’s getting in and getting through that matters. There are remarkable institutions around the country succeeding at making access and success a reality for low income students. We need to learn from their leadership and spread the word about practices that work," said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell.

RU-N was lauded by the USDE for being among a small group of institutions nationally that “outperform their peer institutions in enrolling and graduating Pell Grant recipients,” in the words of the report. It also highlighted the Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) as an example of an innovative practice that cultivates “a more inclusive learning environment and greater engagement among students” to create “a greater sense of belonging.” RU-N Chancellor Nancy Cantor believes that initiatives like the HLLC speak directly to the concerns expressed by King and Mitchell. “Our nation has a compelling interest in making sure that the pathways to and through college are visibly open to all talented and qualified individuals,” said Cantor. “One way to do that is to connect questions of merit directly to questions of social impact. What, indeed, is ‘merit’ if it reproduces the very same disparities in income and life circumstances that we see growing nationwide? The HLLC’s inclusive admissions process and cohort-based model of academic and personal support are designed to address precisely that question, while offering an innovative curriculum that tackles head on the challenges of the world on the ground, preparing students to assume the mantle of leadership locally, nationally, and globally.”

Using data available in the College Scorecard, and incorporating the findings of analyses by outside organizations focused on student success, the USDE report focuses mostly on four-year colleges.

The Department also held a conference Thursday with college presidents, trustees and campus leaders from across the nation to discuss ongoing work, including several who are included in the report. The event spotlighted the promising and proven practices developed by these institutions to advance success for low-income students, and encourage broader conversations among the field to accelerate this work. Cantor and RU-N Advisory Board Chair Oliver Quinn (Law ’75) represented the university at today’s report release in Washington, D.C., where Quinn was a panelist with other college and university board members and presidents addressing the challenges faced and strategies employed in expanding access and opportunity to low-income students. Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon moderated the opening panel at the event, titled, “A Day in the Life of a Pell Student” that featured Pell students telling their own stories.

For more information, contact Peter Englot, senior vice chancellor for public affairs, Rutgers University – Newark, peter.englot@rutgers.edu or (973)-353-5541.