Yale expands programs to ready students for college as part of White House initiative

On the White House College Opportunity Day of Action, President Peter Salovey announced Yale’s commitment to launch new initiatives and expand programs with demonstrated success in helping students prepare for and graduate from college.

Convened by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the Dec. 4 event is the second White House summit focused on developing new initiatives to help more students prepare for and finish college. The first was held in January of this year.

At the first summit, Yale made several commitments to expand its efforts to reach low-income, high-achieving students and prepare them for success, including three new targeted admissions mailings, expanded outreach through admissions officers and student ambassadors, the piloting of the Freshman Scholars at Yale program, and the development and implementation of an online course to help these students prepare for college-level mathematics. Yale was pleased to report to the White House that it satisfied all of its inaugural commitments, and has already seen some notable results from these efforts. The freshman Class of 2018 includes a record number QuestBridge Finalists – an increase of more 50% compared with previous years — and applications from lower-income students who received targeted outreach materials grew at three times the rate of applications overall in the last admissions cycle.

At the most recent summit, hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders announced new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. Patricia Melton, executive director of the New Haven Promise, attended the event, representing the partnership with Yale to expand college access in New Haven.

Yale’s new commitments are focused on college completion and K-16 collaboration. Descriptions of the initiatives follow.

College Transition Collaborative

Yale will join with 12 other institutions to pilot the College Transition Collaborative, a group of researchers and universities dedicated to creating, evaluating, and disseminating interventions to help students overcome doubts about belonging and their abilities that undermine academic progress. Some students may not live up to their academic potential due to fears and anxieties, and it has been shown that students of color drop out and earn worse grades than non-minority students with identical high school credentials. These feelings are most acute at moments of educational transition, such as the freshman year of college.

Yale will develop customized intervention materials for freshmen as part of its online, pre-orientation programming. The data from these interventions will be used to build a national database that will help identify the types of interventions that are mostly likely to be effective.

Freshman Scholars at Yale

In 2013 and 2014 Yale implemented the Freshman Scholars at Yale (FSY) program, which provides a cohort of low-income and first-generation students with an immersive Yale experience the summer before their first semester. Participants live and study on campus for five weeks, during which students participate in activities, coursework, seminars, and trips designed to facilitate and enhance their transition to Yale. Students attend the program at no cost. Yale provides full travel stipends to and from campus and waives participants’ summer financial contribution.

An evaluation of the program’s first year demonstrated that FSY participants earned higher freshman GPAs and were more likely to “strongly agree” that they were prepared to seek academic advice and support, compared to a control group.

Yale will expand the FSY program by nearly 40%, increasing the number of incoming freshman served from approximately 30 to 48 in summer 2015. Yale’s Office of Institutional Research will continue to assess and evaluate participating students to understand FSY’s effects on academic achievement and retention.

New Haven Promise

Founded in 2010, New Haven Promise is a scholarship and support program for New Haven public school students and their families. Through Promise (as the program is known), high school graduates who maintain a 3.0 GPA and a 90% attendance record — and who participate in community service — receive full tuition assistance for any two- or four-year program at a public college or university (or up to $2,500 annually to attend a private non-profit) in Connecticut. To date, there are 500 Promise students enrolled in Connecticut colleges and universities. Yale is the primary sponsor of Promise.

The Pathways to Promise program creates a comprehensive college-going culture designed to motivate students and inspire them to start thinking early about college. Yale, working through New Haven Promise, commits to expanding the Pathways to Promise program to parents, engaging them when their children are at the elementary level and continuing that outreach as students enter middle school and prepare to complete the Promise pledge, in which the student commits to college preparation necessary to secure a Promise Scholarship. The goal is to encourage 500 parents to pledge their children for Promise in grades K-5 by September 2015 and to double the number by 2016. Similarly, Promise aims to sign up 400 parents of students in grades 6, 7 and 8 by September 2015, with an additional 400 by 2016.

Yale, working through New Haven Promise, will expand the newly piloted Ambassador program from 4 to 10 campuses, expanding its reach from 116 to 250 students in 2015. The Ambassador program is an academic and near-peer social support network through which Promise scholarship recipients who are currently enrolled in Connecticut colleges and universities help high school students make a successful transition to freshman year.

Yale, working through New Haven Promise, will launch CitiesofPromise.com, an online resource to showcase the diversity of Promise collaborations and to serve as a connecting point for cities, businesses, and colleges that aspire to develop and implement new Promise programs.

By 2015, New Haven Promise will develop 50 new commitments with nonprofit and faith-based champions to support college readiness in their communities.

Recently, Yale hosted PromiseNet 2014, the sixth and largest gathering of the Promise organizations, and President Peter Salovey, current chair of the New Haven Promise board of directors, served as the keynote speaker. Coordinated by the Yale School of Management, the gathering brought together representatives from more than 75 Promise organizations from 19 states to discuss the opportunities involved in coordinating efforts and standardizing operations, and to consider the challenges of college access and success.

College Pathways

Yale expends significant resources supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and enrichment programs in its local community. Currently, more than 200 faculty members and 375 Yale students participate in the university’s K-12 STEM education outreach programs, which serve a target group of 1,200 students in grades 6-12 from New Haven and surrounding towns.

In 2012 Yale developed a coordinated, data-driven approach to STEM outreach through “Yale Pathways to Science.” Central to this effort is a longitudinal database housing information about all of the pre-college STEM outreach programs and the students that they serve. It enables the university to identify and support a target group of local students, to track their progress through college completion, and to connect the students with STEM programs that are appropriate at each stage of their education. The database also allows Yale to assess the effectiveness of K-12 STEM outreach programs in improving college access and success.

Yale aims for 30% of graduates of New Haven schools to enroll in college and major in STEM fields. The goal is that all of them will graduate from college and that one-fifth will remain in STEM fields. 

Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

Yale will redouble its efforts in New Haven and around the country to increase the preparation and effectiveness of teachers in public schools that enroll a high proportion of students from low-income families and underrepresented minority backgrounds. Through the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools and the periodical On Common Ground, the university will acquaint public school teachers, college and university faculty members, presidents of institutions of higher education, and superintendents of public school districts with the innovative Teachers Institute approach to school curricula and teacher professional development. This approach has been shown to increase teacher quality in ways known to improve student achievement; also, Institute participation has been strongly correlated with teacher retention in high-need schools.

Yale will assist with the development of new Teachers Institutes for urban and rural high-need school districts and will work to sustain existing Teachers Institutes at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, Davidson College, and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Through the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, the university will expand its efforts to inform public policy at the local, state, and federal levels on teacher professional development and teachers’ preparation of curricula that increase the rigor of school courses to engage and educate students from low-income families.

Specifically, the Teachers Institute will:

  • increase by one-third the number of urban and rural school districts that send teachers from high-need schools to participate as National Fellows to increase their preparation, develop new curricular material to implement district and state standards, and learn about the Teachers Institute approach to high-quality professional development;
  • using emerging technologies, greatly increase awareness and use of curricular material developed at Yale and other institute locations, enlarging the number of STEM and humanities teachers using these materials in high-need schools around the country; and
  • convene a national conference on the role of Teachers Institutes in supporting and retaining teachers in high-need schools to help ensure an equitable distribution of effective teachers in order to engage and educate students from low-income families in those schools and to prepare them to enroll and succeed in college.

In these ways, Yale will have a broader impact on the deeper problem concerning access to higher education that our country faces.