Note to Vermont Campus Compact
Richard Lloyd, President
In the fall of 2013, College of St. Joseph, Rutland, VT, launched a new program for students: Provider Scholarship Program. The intent of the program was to align high impact learning practices with a scholarship and financial aid strategy that made college more accessible and affordable for students, especially since CSJ’s percentage of Pell eligible students is over 60%. The formula: Mission + Access + Affordability + High Impact Practices (Academic, Engagement, Service, and Career Exploration) = Environment for Success.
Students who receive the scholarship commit to academic excellence, campus participation, career/vocational planning, and community engagement and service. In return, when students meet the required benchmarks for success, they receive an annual increase to their scholarship so that their direct cost to attend CSJ goes down. In other words, the program creates a declining cost structure for students.
Outcomes over the past two years indicate the program is achieving the desired outcomes. Full time undergraduate enrollment has doubled and campus residency is full.
Students are also making a difference on campus and in the larger community—over the past two years, Provider Scholars have contributed more than 7,400 hours of service. In a year end survey, students responded that they “liked working on group projects where we all had the same overall goal.”
One key goal of the program was to see an increase in first-year to second-year retention. Research indicates that if students participate in a series of high impact practices, their persistence rates improve. CSJ has seen its retention of first year students improve from a 40% average of the two years prior to the program to a70% two year average since implementation.
As CSJ heads into the third year of the program, we continue to look for ways to improve so we can continue to achieve desired outcomes. We are grateful for Vermont Campus Compact’s support and consulting expertise as we revamp our FYE and General Education curriculum in support of the goals of the program. In the fall of 2014, VCC spent a day on campus talking to students about the program and the following article is a summary of that conversation:
A Day in the Life - Community Day at CSJ
co-authored by Atiya McGee, Graduate Student at the University of Vermont
Every Wednesday at the College of St. Joseph is Community Day – a day when regularly scheduled classes are put on hold and everyone on campus takes time to focus on building community on-and-off campus. First-year students start their day at 8:00am in Professor Jonas Prida’s first-year seminar class “College Experience- Striving to thrive at College of Saint Joseph.” The class is designed “toward helping students take responsibility for their own learning and becoming engaged in college activities and activities of civic engagement.” The amount of activity and interaction between students is palpable as you enter the theater where this large class gathers. Many are first generation students, so Professor Prida aims to get them comfortable with the idea of college and encourages personal reflection on their process. Assignments range from designing their own student club to interviewing faculty and staff members on campus. After the seminar, most students head directly to the library to further engage in self-reflection and academic work prior to a community luncheon and participating in community service.
At noon on Wednesdays a community lunch offers faculty, staff and students the opportunity join together to share a meal. Large bowls of food sit at the center of the table. The “family style” meal enables students to begin dialogue with one another and build community between themselves and the staff and faculty. President Richard Lloyd, along with faculty, staff and administrators designed the Provider Scholars program as an effort to make college more accessible, but he also knows that students won’t succeed in college without efforts to support and engage them once they arrive. Students are more likely to stay in college and succeed if they are engaged with their peers, with faculty members, and with the community around them.
This support is echoed through the narratives the students who are part of the Provider Scholars Program. One student, a current junior, received support from her family to attend college but as a first generation college student no one in her family was able to guide her through the application process or through college. Her learning differences made it difficult to thrive academically during high school. Her options became increasingly limited for both scholarship and for academic admissions. College of Saint Joseph’s scholarship allowed her attend a school that was small, student-focused and could accommodate her Individual Education Plan (IEP). The Provider Scholarship program enabled her to afford her education out of state and receive the support needed to thrive academically. Attending the community lunch provides her with a forum for building a sense of community she might otherwise struggle to find.
After breaking bread with the campus community, students prepare to leave campus to engage in one of several external community engagement opportunities within the Rutland area. Through partnerships with organizations ranging from women’s advocacy groups to agencies addressing food, shelter, and education, CSJ’s Provider Scholars complete 15 hours of service each semester. On the day of our visit, one particular group of students is working with The Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter painting and preparing a transition house for women who have left abusive households.
For one of the students working on the project this was her first community service experience. In high school, she didn’t have time to do community service and extracurricular activities. She spent much of her time helping out around the house—helping to raise her niece. Although her family was supportive, she almost didn’t go to college. She had a family to take care of and college didn’t seem like an option. But she took a leap of faith and attend College of Saint Joseph as a Provider Scholar. The Provider Scholarship program enabled her to afford her education and participate in the community engagement work she didn’t have the time to do prior to college. Thus far she doesn’t regret the decision. She enjoys doing the community service required by the program and she says that the faculty and staff at CSJ have been helpful and compassionate.
The Provider Scholarship Program is a model that works for the College of Saint Joseph. Can this be done elsewhere? According to President Lloyd “it depends on the size, goal, and mission of the institution. Our model fits our campus and may not fit every school as designed, but the goals of the program are certainly replicable since they are based on high impact learning practices.”
Thanks to the Provider Scholars program, the College of St. Joseph has more than doubled its full time undergraduate enrollment. The transition hasn’t been easy – from finding space to house additional students to finding a classroom big enough to bring them all together, the campus has felt but steadfastly dealt with the pressure that comes with growth. Likewise, bringing students to campus doesn’t ensure that they will stay; that’s where the hard work in continually improving the program and the support that students receive comes in. But President Lloyd is confident that CSJ is seeing a new surge in energy to which the faculty, staff, and students will respond. Only by working in community can they ensure the success of this ambitious initiative.