Campus programs aim to retain low-income students

Cynthia Montes arrived at the university eight years ago as a first-generation college student. She did not know where to go, how to study or anything about college life.

Then Montes found the Student Support Services program, aimed at transitioning first-generation students to college life. With the help of the Student Support Services program, Montes graduated in four years and is now an academic adviser for the program.

“I’ve seen the wonders it does for students who come through,” Montes said. “We provide students with anything that will help them transition and feel comfortable. We shoot for giving them a home away from home.”

Student Support Services is just one of the programs at TCU aimed at enrolling and retaining high-achieving, low-income students and minority students, Montes said.

According to a study by Stanford University professor Caroline Hoxby, these students typically apply for public colleges close to home.

Dean of Admissions Ray Brown said the university has made efforts to attract and enroll minority students.

The fall 2008 freshman class was the first class ever to have more than 20 percent minority students, he said. The 1998 freshman class was 8 percent minority students, he said.

“This institution was very, very white and it’s been going 100 miles-an-hour to try to turn the ship around,” Brown said.

The university has programs at the local level, the state level and the national level targeting high-achieving, low-income and minority students, Brown said.

The Community Scholars program began in 1999 and takes applicants each year from nine traditionally low-income high schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and offers 30 of these students scholarships, Brown said.

The 30 students have their entire financial need met in gift money, with a small loan and a small work-study component, he said.

“The program is in essence, ‘Send us your best and brightest and we’ll take care of them,'” Brown said. “It’s a bit of a jewel in our crown at TCU.”

Camp College is a state program for low-income students that TCU has participated in for six years, hosting three years, Brown said. According to the Texas Association for College Admission Counseling Web site, Camp College is a week-long program designed to inform rising high school juniors and seniors how to begin their college search, compare colleges and interact with college representatives.

At the national level, the university participates in the National Hispanic Institute, a week-long college preparation program, Brown said. TCU hosted the event the past five years, he said.

“Folks around here have stopped hearing, ‘TCU doesn’t want me, I’m the wrong color,'” Brown said. “People are finally seeing that this is an institution that is serious about diversifying its student body.”

Montes said without programs like Student Support Services, minority students wouldn’t have the opportunities she experienced as a student.

“I found this program, and it was amazing,” she said. “It was because of this program that I did end up graduating in four years.”