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Taking notes from Kalamazoo College in recruiting and graduating low-income students

Kalamazoo College campus
user: Kalamazoo College


When it comes to recruiting and graduating low-income students, one school that is clearly getting it right is Kalamazoo College.

The New York Times ranks Kalamazoo College No. 12 in the nation among elite colleges that enroll a large percentage of PELL-grant eligible students.

The PELL grant is a solid indicator, since many students in families above the poverty level do not qualify for these grants.

Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran is president of Kalamazoo College. She says attracting and keeping low-income students have been a priority of the college and part of its institutional mission: 

The college says 21% of its student body are PELL grant eligible students – that's a 12% increase from 2006, when the institution renewed its push to bring in low-income students. 

To attract students from less well-off communities, Kalamazoo broadened its recruitment avenues and developed programs so that high school students are brought to campus and can envision themselves being in college.

Retaining those students is key as well. Wilson-Oyelaran says the college put extra effort in enabling first-generation college students to access campus resources such as workshops on study skills and time management.

"The college already has programs for academic support. The challenge often is getting students to recognize that seeking that support is a smart thing to do," says Wilson-Oyelaran.

Wilson-Oyelaran adds that by bringing in and graduating students from humble economic backgrounds, education institutions make a difference in the students themselves, their families, and their communities. 

Kalamazoo College is running a fundraising campaign now, with a focus on expanding the matching fund for the federal PELL scholarships.

* Listen to our conversation with Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran above.

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