TACOMA, Wash. — University of Puget Sound plans to help more Tacoma students get a college education by meeting the full financial need of all of its Access Programs alumni who enroll at the institution.
Access Programs, run in partnership by the university and Tacoma Public Schools, provides special mentoring, tutoring, and classroom experiences that have helped to prepare for college hundreds of local middle and high school students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
Puget Sound President Ronald R. Thomas is attending a White House higher education summit today hosted by President Barack Obama and dedicated to increasing college access for low-income and underrepresented students. Puget Sound’s Access Programs will be among the initiatives highlighted at the event.
President Thomas, who serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and on the executive committee of the Annapolis Group, will attend the full-day summit along with other higher education leaders, business leaders, philanthropists, and state and local government officials. The attendees are creating a plan of action to pursue ideas that will broaden access to college and help students complete their college degrees.
“For decades we have been offering mentoring and access programs for local students, most recently in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools,” Thomas said. “Now we are pleased to extend these efforts further with a plan that includes expanded financial aid and support in order to open doors for talented local high school graduates who aspire to attend Puget Sound. This commitment is just one step we are taking as part of a broader planning effort to provide access and support to students who might not otherwise think a Puget Sound education is within their reach.”
Beginning in fall 2014, Puget Sound aims to enroll between five and 10 new Access Programs alumni each year, for a total cohort of between 20 and 40 students going forward. The goal will be pursued by increasing need-based grants and merit scholarships to meet students’ full financial need.
All Access Programs students who are accepted through the normal admission process to attend Puget Sound will be eligible for the financial aid. They may be recent high school graduates, or transferring from another institution. The university also aims to support the success of the students by enrolling them in a cohort program that provides pre-college programming, leadership development, mentoring, and ongoing support.
Since 1995 Puget Sound Access Programs has served more than 1,000 students in grades seven to 12 by offering them enrichment programs in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools. Typically the students are from low-income families or from communities of color, or they are potential first-generation college graduates.
Access Programs activities include Tuesday Night Tutoring, the four-week Summer Academic Challenge science and math program on the Puget Sound campus, youth mentoring by Puget Sound students, and Access to College Day, which provides sessions on financial aid, admission, library skills, study abroad, and academic support. In the past two years, more than 85 percent of the senior participants in Summer Academic Challenge have pursued post-secondary education.
“With this new commitment, we hope that more Access Programs participants will keep Puget Sound in their sights as they consider their college options,” said Jenny Rickard, vice president for enrollment at Puget Sound.
Today’s announcement by Puget Sound is one of many actions taken over the past decade to build constructive ties with its neighbors and the surrounding region, and to encourage a two-way flow of talent and resources between the campus and its community.