|19-year old Isaiah Reese is one of 14 students currently enrolled in Washington College's program for low income students|
Many private colleges across the country are experimenting with new programs that will allow more low income students to attend their institutions. One of those is Washington College, a private liberal arts school in Chestertown, MD (about 75 miles from Baltimore), which recently created a program that offers low income students full-ride tuition to attend. Normally, the tuition to attend costs more than $42,000 a year.
Helping smart students from low income backgrounds
Sheila Bair, president of Washington College, created the program for low income students and calls it the George's Brigade program. The program is for academically promising students from low income backgrounds and includes full-ride tuition, room and board, and student loan borrowing for other education-related incidentals up to $2,500 a year.
This is the first year of the new program, which now has 14 low-income students enrolled. College President Bair wants to make her school a test ground to demonstrate how other schools, particularly private ones, can made college more affordable. In fact, it has been her goal since she took office in 2015. Next year, Bair wants to extend the program to 20 students.
More than just financial help
Bair says the program is about more than just meeting students’ financial needs. "It’s also about ensuring they enjoy and make it through school," she says.
She first came up with the idea shortly after arriving at the college and researching some of the challenges low income and first generation students face getting through college. “A consistent theme that came up was a feeling of isolation,” she said.
She then zeroed in on the idea of allowing students to apply to the school and the program with friends or others from their high school or community. The students also participate in a variety of activities as a cohort once they’re enrolled. She comments, “It’s just making sure they’ve got the social network and support structure to thrive.”
How the program is funded
The program is funded by donors, federal and state grants, and scholarships from the school. Bair explains that the program will not only provide college education opportunities to deserving low income students, but it will also create "a diverse campus in every sense of the word.”
To learn more about the program and application process, visit www.washcoll.edu/admissions/brigade/