UMSL partnering with College Bound, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri to support students
The University of Missouri–St. Louis is committed to providing students of every background access to quality education and supporting them on their way to success.
As part of a deal finalized last month, UMSL has provided College Bound students discounted tuition to college courses this summer through the Early College Credit Program as well as access to support services, and the university will offer scholarship opportunities and support should the students later enroll at UMSL. Another agreement, signed earlier this month by Chancellor Kristin Sobolik, provides students from Big Brothers Big Sisters with similar scholarships and access to support services when they choose UMSL after high school.
“To be able to deepen relationships with our community partners and to provide more extensive wraparound support services for their students is a win-win for both UMSL and these community-based organizations,” said Alan Byrd, vice provost for enrollment management. “We’re strengthening our support system for these students by building a strong network of caring individuals around them to ensure their success.”
College Bound, founded in 2006, assists low-income and first-generation students with academic readiness, financial aid counseling and navigating the admissions process. The organization offers encouragement and early intervention in college and helps students launch their careers with resources such as mentorship and paid internships. It has grown to serve more than 450 students from more than 40 high schools in its full-service program.
“One of the things that we saw with the percentage of our students who took college-credit bearing classes in high school was how many finished either on time or early and with significantly less debt,” College Bound President and CEO Scott Baier said. “In our most recent strategic plan, we set a goal that every College Bound student would be able to complete college-level math coursework as freshmen. The benefits of early college credit are academic, financial, and social.”
Baier said UMSL is a great partner to help College Bound continue to meet both goals.
“They just see our students in a different way,” he said. “They recognize their experience, they understand what it takes to be successful, and they also understand that for anyone’s first time experiencing college, it could either be a positive thing or a negative thing. UMSL has done a great job of saying if we make this is a really good first experience, those students’ ability to be successful just multiplies.”
More than 30 students have enrolled in one or two early college-credit courses this summer, and they are receiving 50 percent tuition discount under the terms of the agreement.
“Exposing students to early college experiences and the rigor of college courses makes them better prepared to succeed in college,” Byrd said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to take courses at UMSL and become familiar with our faculty and the support services that we provide on campus. These students get to experience our campus firsthand before they graduate from high school, and hopefully, they see us as a good fit when they complete their diplomas.”
UMSL’s agreement with Big Brothers Big Sisters is focused primarily on supporting students after they’ve enrolled at UMSL.
“There’s more than just financial aid when it comes to college,” said Tashanna Stanciel, the senior director of BBBSEMO’s Big Futures Program, which assists graduates of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program as they pursue post-secondary education, enlistment in the military and/or living wage employment. “It’s important that you can afford it. But do you have a sense of belonging on campus? Are there support systems in place to make sure that you are going to be successful? In addition to those support services, who are those individuals on campus who truly care about you and are going to help you get to the finish line. That’s what this partnership is going to help.”
It has many similarities with an agreement reached in February between UMSL and Wyman, a St. Louis-based nonprofit working to empower teens from economically disadvantaged circumstances to lead successful lives and build strong communities.
UMSL will provide students from Big Brothers Big Sisters who enroll with a $1,000 Community Partnership Scholarship that is stackable with other institutional aid and will be renewable annually as long as students complete 24 credit hours per year and maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher. Stanciel said eight graduates of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are currently enrolled for the fall semester.
Student Academic Support Services, led by Assistant Provost for Access and Academic Support in Academic Affairs Natissia Small, will offer academic coaching, tutorial support, career planning, individualized prescriptive plans, academic and nonacademic workshops and seminars, cultural enrichment and mentorship.
Staff members with BBBSEMO will work with UMSL advisors to monitor students’ academic and social well-being and plan interventions to support their success and work through barriers.
BBBSEMO, which serves more than 1,500 students between K-12 Littles and alumni each year in St. Louis, St. Charles and Cape Girardeau, entered into a similar agreement last year with Missouri State University.
It made sense to work with UMSL in a similar capacity given its focus on creating opportunity for students, no matter their background, in the St. Louis region. In addition, two UMSL graduates – Julian Brown and Raven McNeil – work as part of the Big Futures team at BBBSEMO, and Stanciel has known Byrd for about two decades and considers him a mentor.
“We’re trying to figure out what colleges and universities are truly student focused and student centered and are willing to work with Big Brothers, Big Sisters and understand and believe the mission of our agency,” Stanciel said. “That is to build trusting and enduring relationships to support young people.”
Byrd is eager to see the impact of the partnership on students.
“We are creating a strong safety net where we have regular interactions and multiple contacts with the students every semester,” Byrd said. “It will be difficult for students to fall through the cracks because of the time and attention they will receive from UMSL staff along with our community partners.”
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