Expanding Student Access and Affordability

When President Obama and top administration officials held an all-day White House summit on increasing college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students, Mount Holyoke College’s President Lynn Pasquerella made a point to be there.

The January event was part of President Obama’s efforts to make a college education accessible and affordable for more Americans, one of Pasquerella’s priorities for Mount Holyoke too.

Mount Holyoke has long been a leader in addressing issues of access and affordability, and at the summit agreed to take specific, measurable actions to help low-income students.

New Initiatives

Mount Holyoke’s part of the White House access for all effort includes these new initiatives:

• Mount Holyoke will give a full tuition scholarship to all new Frances Perkins Scholars (approximately 25–30 students each year, a commitment of more than $1 million annually). These nontraditional age students will also receive extensive support from an enhanced advising program.

• Mount Holyoke will expand and diversify college-community partnership efforts that increase access for low-income students in Western Massachusetts. These include several programs that bring current MHC students and faculty into urban schools to boost awareness of college opportunities and help K-12 and community college students prepare themselves academically for a bachelor’s degree.

• President Pasquerella will support access and affordability for low-income, first-generation college students across Massachusetts as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Quality, Efficiency, and Finance.

• Mount Holyoke will explore expansion of its current Posse Program, which provides full scholarships to academically promising low-income students in collaboration with the Posse Foundation. 

Continuing Initiatives

The new initiatives will continue and enhance Mount Holyoke’s long-term commitment to support success for low-income students. These include:

The Lynk, a comprehensive curriculum-to-career initiative that prepares students for life and career with goal-setting advice, a paid internship experience, professional development guidance, and help with the post-graduation transition.

• An NSF-funded project that increases the number of low-income students transferring from community colleges and pursuing science and technology disciplines.

Admission and financial aid practices that support access for low-income and first-generation college students.

  • Sixty-eight percent of our students received need-based aid in 2013–2014.
  • The College spends some $48 million annually to provide need-based student grants and scholarships.
  • Twenty percent of students in 2013 were first-generation college students.
  • More than one-quarter of current domestic students receive Pell grants, and these women graduate at an even higher rate than the overall student body.
  • Substantial financial aid allows 30 percent of graduates to leave MHC with no student debt; the rest have an average student debt that is almost $3,000 below the national average.