U briefs legislators on diversity, accessibility

Amid continued budget battles at the state Capitol, higher education officials testified Thursday before the Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division about steps the University is taking to increase diversity and accessibility on campus. University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system officials briefed the committee on measures they have taken to encourage college enrollment among students who might not otherwise have attended. One aspect the University promoted was its Ramp-up to Readiness program, which it is currently developing in 11 metro-area high schools. The program is designed to provide guidance to high school students to help increase college enrollment across the state, Kent Pekel, executive director of the UniversityâÄôs College Readiness Consortium, said. âÄúWe really face two challenges,âÄù Pekel said. âÄúWe face the challenge to help students navigate the system that weâÄôve got much more effectively, but we also face the challenge of changing the system.âÄù Ramp-Up would go into high schools across the state and help students as young as in the seventh grade develop a plan to help them get to college. Pekel pointed to the results of a survey given to those schools showing an interest in going to college âÄî more than 88 percent said they plan to go to college after high school, and more than 96 percent said their parents expected them to do so. âÄúOur kids want to go on and their families want to go on,âÄù Pekel said. âÄúOur aspirations are not resulting in higher attainment.âÄù Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, gave a presentation regarding the Access to Success program, in which students who previously would have attended the General College work closely with advisers in three schools across the University. There are 441 students enrolled in ATS, which was new in 2008. The program costs more than $128,000, which McMaster said is paid by the colleges involved. Legislatures seemed impressed by the success of the ATS program âÄî among the 223 enrolled in ATS in the College of Liberal Arts, the average GPA was 2.94, only .2 lower than that of non-ATS students. McMaster also outlined the âÄúBridge to Academic Excellence âÄú program, in which about 80 students spend the summer after their high school graduation working for credits at the University. âÄú[This] really gives them a true head start in terms of credit completion,âÄù McMaster said. Students enrolled in the $410,000 program since summer 2007 have a current cumulative GPA of 2.8.