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UST Featured in College Guidebook for First-Generation Students

Young people in all socioeconomic groups have college aspirations. In fact, eight out of 10 expect to attain a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Department of Education. But despite these aspirations, low-income students and those who are the first in their families to pursue higher education are severely underrepresented on college campuses.

The University of St. Thomas is working to change this trend and has been recognized in Center for Student Opportunity’s 2011 College Access & Opportunity Guide, a comprehensive college guidebook designed to help low-income, first-generation college-bound students make their college dreams a reality. UST is one of 284 colleges and universities highlighted for their outreach efforts, financial aid opportunities and student support services.

According to the College Board, high-achieving students from low-income families have about the same chance of enrolling in college as low-achieving students from wealthier families. Studies show that many of those who do make it to college are still not finding supportive college environments or graduating. A recent USA Today article notes that 89 percent of low-income, first-generation students leave college within six years without a degree.

“We are proud of our efforts to attract high-achieving students from all sectors of our community to St Thomas. Even more importantly, we are committed to assisting them graduate,” said UST President Dr. Robert Ivany. “Our faith-based environment, small class size, mentoring initiative and committed faculty all combine to offer our students support, encouragement and inspiration to complete their education.

“We are very pleased to be profiled in the 2011 College Access & Opportunity Guide. Prospective families and students need this kind of valuable information when considering which college is right for them,” Ivany said.

The University of St. Thomas provides resources opportunities to ensure success for first-year and first-generation college students. UST has a first-year experience program titled, “The Freshman Symposium: Educating Leaders of Faith and Character.” This program offers faculty and staff mentorship. The Office of Residence Life is introducing a student group for first-generation students.

The Mendenhall Summer Institute is a five-week program for a select group of 50 incoming freshmen that allows these students to start early on their college education.  Students receive support outside the classroom, college credit and the opportunity to earn grants toward college tuition. The Mendenhall Achievement Center is located centrally on the UST campus and provides a professional support team including advising, mentoring, tutoring and counseling.

Over the last two years, UST offered  the Science and Math Summer Institute, which was part of the Department of Education’s College Cost Reduction Access Act/Hispanic-Serving Institutions program (CCRAA-HSI). A main priority of the grant is to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.  In addition, UST offers the S-STEM Scholars Program, which seeks to increase the number of students graduating in the fields of science, pre-engineering and mathematics and to recruit women and underrepresented groups to the science and math careers.