Program aims to reduce higher-education achievement gap in Twin Cities
If there is one gift we could give teens for their future, most people agree it would be a college education. But for too many hard-working youth, college seems beyond their reach.
In an effort to help reduce the education and prosperity gap in Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas will open The Dougherty Family College for the 2017-18 school year. The college is now accepting applications for its first class of students.
The Dougherty Family College Associate of Arts Degree is uniquely designed to help ensure the success of under-served students who may be the first in their family to attend college, or those who have limited support or financial assistance to pursue a four-year degree. Students will need a 2.5 or higher grade-point average and must have a high level of financial need (e.g., meeting the eligibility requirements for federal Pell Grants and/or state grants).
In addition, students must participate in a qualifying interview to determine their readiness and motivation. ACT is not required.
“Human beings cannot flourish and realize their potential without access to education and access to job opportunities,” says Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of the University of St. Thomas. “Dougherty Family College is about expanding access, in particular for those students who have limited financial resources or have faced challenges in their life.”
The Dougherty Family College plans to admit about 150 students to its inaugural college class. Classes will be held four days a week, from 8 am to 3 pm. To increase access for students, the two-year college will be located on the University of St. Thomas campus in downtown Minneapolis.
It will offer students an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts, with courses that meet Minnesota Transfer Curriculum guidelines. The annual tuition will be offset by state and local grants, scholarships and corporate support, bringing final tuition costs to just $1,000 a year for the most under-resourced students. Scholarships, along with free laptops, meals and bus transportation, ensure students have the tools needed so nothing stands in the way of their ability to focus on a rigorous college education.
Structured and intensive mentoring, a directed curriculum, generous financial aid and small class sizes will help prepare students to succeed in their first two years of college and prepare them to matriculate in a four-year program with minimal student debt. St. Thomas will also connect its two-year college students with paid internships through collaboration with regional employers.
“These internships will offer valuable, hands-on work experience that will help our students develop professional and life skills,” said Pat Ryan, chair of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees and an early advocate for making a connection between the school and the business community.
Students will take a core curriculum of liberal arts classes, which will meet the academic standards of the University of St. Thomas four-year program but will be delivered in a different way. Each student will attend classes with the same group of 25 students throughout the two-year program.
They will take a first-year experience seminar focusing on study skills, time management, financial and information literacy, preparatory skills for conducting research, and professional development etiquette. In addition, students will participate in leadership development advisory groups to hone their critical thinking and leadership skills.
“A college degree is one of the best ways to beat poverty,” says Mike Dougherty, lead benefactor along with his wife, Kathy. “My wife, daughters and I want to give motivated, hard-working students the opportunity to succeed in college so they can use their talents and support themselves in the future.
“One day, I believe these students will be giving back to our community,” Dougherty says. “But for now, this is a way for our family to give back to the community that has been so good to us.”
“Inspiration for the Dougherty Family College came from within our school, from our generous, community-minded donors, and from our own mission to be morally responsible leaders who work to advance the common good,” President Sullivan says. “Addressing Minnesota’s achievement gap requires not only compassion, but the commitment to take action — and we intend to be part of the solution.”