Retaining low-income students

University administrators continue to work for income-based diversity.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler presented plans to improve first-year retention rates of low-income students at a White House summit last week.

The initiative, called Retaining all Our Students, works to improve the retention rate from the freshman to sophomore years of students who receive a Pell Grant, a federal subsidy for low-income undergraduates. Nearly 12,000 University undergraduates received Pell Grants in 2012, the Minnesota Daily reported.

According to a University press release, the current retention rate is 90.4 percent for all incoming freshmen, but the rate is 86.9 percent for Pell Grant recipients. The release also cites research indicating low-income students are less familiar with the process of finding financial support for college and as a result are more likely to drop out or delay graduation.

To combat this, the initiative will use a variety of methods to improve the retention rate for Pell Grant recipients, including a financial literacy program designed specifically for low-income students, summer programs, enhanced advising, and peer tutoring in foundational courses.

The introduction of the Retaining all Our Students program is an encouraging sign that University leadership is prioritizing income-based diversity.

Because the University’s admissions process is need-blind, the school does not actively recruit low-income students. But programs such as the President’s Emerging Scholars program and the U Promise Scholarship make the cost of education more affordable for financially disadvantaged students.

The Retaining all Our Students program, which is expected to be fully implemented by fall 2016, will provide additional and much-needed support for low-income students on their path to graduation.