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CollegeKeys Compact™ Best Practices ― Vanderbilt University
Monday, April 26, 2010
Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University, a CollegeKeys Compact™ member, has reaped the benefits of a comprehensive strategy to increase economic and social diversity on its campus. Through a broad initiative involving outreach, admission and financial aid efforts, the university bolstered its commitment to its founding purpose of “strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”
University officials believe that a diverse campus community adds vitality and helps the university better prepare 21st-century leaders, and they did not want the institution to miss academically talented students because of economic barriers. Recognizing that many qualified students from low-income families did not even apply to Vanderbilt, the university convened a low- and middle-income task force in 2007 to examine potential solutions for these challenges.
The group designed a detailed plan that included outreach and communications strategies, and it assigned roles to the staff members responsible for each project component.
It focused on a greatly expanded set of access and early awareness programs for outreach to low-income students and creative financial aid solutions. The university provided professional development for its admission and outreach staff to ensure that they recognized the value of these students to the campus community.
The university broadened its outreach through a variety of communications to prospective students. It created new opportunities to bring them to campus for events and to hear information about how to navigate the admission and financial aid process.
Also, regarding financial aid, the university instituted a no-loan initiative in fall 2009, in which need-based loans normally included in undergraduate financial aid awards for new and returning students were replaced with Vanderbilt grants and scholarships.
The benefits of this strategy have been seen across the campus. Paige Allen is one student who appreciated the university’s extensive outreach. Now a sophomore studying public policy and political science, Allen says she always aspired to go to Vanderbilt, but in high school, she felt it would be financially out of reach.
“Before receiving my [acceptance] letter, I waited in great anticipation; however, in the back of my mind I always felt the odds were against me. I questioned my decision of applying to the university,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘Even if I did get accepted, how was I going to pay for it?’ Fortunately, Vanderbilt gave me a financial award that covered more than two-thirds of my attendance costs.’
Read the full program description on the CollegeKeys website.