U of M is committed to serving all Minnesota students, regardless of socioeconomic factors

The University of Minnesota is committed to serving all Minnesota students, regardless of socioeconomic factors. A recent MinnPost Community Voices piece claiming otherwise reaches a conclusion that the facts simply do not support.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC) continues to serve high percentages of first-generation and low-income students. In fall 2015, the total UMTC undergraduate enrollment of 30,511 included more than 8,200 first-generation students and/or nearly 6,600 “Pell-eligible” students (those whose annual family incomes are typically $50,000 or less). The campus allocates $30 million each year to the U of M Promise Scholarship program, which provides grants to Minnesota students from families making under $100,000 (with the majority of the aid going to Pell-eligible students). For students with the greatest need, we provide over $15,800 annually in gift aid, including the Pell and state grants. Additionally, the President’s Emerging Scholars program – which provides additional financial aid and other forms of support and guidance – enrolls over 500 new freshmen each year, many of whom are low-income and/or first-generation students.

Over the past decade, UMTC has increased the first-year retention rate for Pell-eligible students from 81 percent to over 90 percent. The four-year graduation rate is now 52 percent, up from 31 percent. These rates are moving closer to the rates for all students, and our goal is to completely close this gap in the near future.

We carefully monitor the enrollment of Pell-eligible students each year and compare those rates with our peer institutions. UMTC has consistently enrolled more than 20 percent Pell-eligible students. Right now, nearly 25 percent of our undergraduate student body is Pell-eligible, a higher percentage than any of our Big Ten peers. 

Our admissions policies are not designed to keep students out of the university. Rather, they work to enhance the likelihood that students who enroll will be successful and graduate in a timely manner. Measures of academic preparation, including standardized scores, student grades and rigor of high school coursework, are strong predictors of student success in college.  

This is why each applicant to UMTC – including more than 48,500 this year, a record high – receives a holistic review. This process includes consideration of a variety of academic and non-academic aspects of a student’s record, providing students multiple ways to showcase their talents. Decisions are not solely test-score based; in fact, no one factor is a deciding factor of admittance. However, the ACT score is certainly one metric used in the review process, as is the case for nearly every one of our peer institutions. Analyses clearly show the strong relationship between test scores and student success, particularly in the first year of college.

The UMTC admissions process is “need-blind.” No information on the financial status of an applicant is available to the university until after the student is admitted and we receive and process the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We then use the majority of our financial aid on low-income students to ensure their financial access to the U, which remains one of the most affordable schools in the state for low-income students. Interestingly, the resident average net price (cost of attendance minus all gift aid) for UMTC students is less than our Big Ten peers for all income categories under $110,000, and equal to them at that level.

We believe the data speak for themselves. UMTC demonstrates a strong commitment to serving all Minnesota students.

Richard Beeson is a member of the Board of Regents. Robert McMaster is Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, UMTC.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/18/2016 - 08:45 pm.

    Much appreciated

    We need and appreciate appropriate response to false claims of inequity in preference.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/19/2016 - 12:27 pm.

    Surely, two such highly-placed administrators at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota are aware that under former President Mark Yudof, the University turned definitively to a high-tuition, high-aid model of funding, to address the shocking decreases of the University’s funding by the State Legislature over a period of years. The crisis in funding by the state is too often simply ignored, as it is here. Yudof and his crew were forced to try to find a way to continue to assure access to the University by the poor–it’s part of the Land Grant mission of the University–while paying the expenses of a major research and graduate education institution. Solution? Try to meet the grossly higher tuition with lots of public and private grants and scholarships (students are taking out loans, instead, it seems–another story).

    Further, admission standards have indeed been strongly tightened over the past 20 years. You can’t just get a high school diploma in Minnesota and expect to be admitted to the Mother Ship campus. Yes, as the author of the original opinion piece had it, the U of MN Twin Cities is much tougher to get into these days. You have to be a better student on the number of indicators that this Regent and administrator point out. That eliminates a lot of applicants from bad high schools, and an honest discussion should be more upfront about that.

    A better defense of the University’s attempts to continue including the economically-disadvantaged among successful applicants would include faculty-inspired programs that bring young people to campus way before potential college application years, offering samples of University experience and encouraging poor kids to study and aspire and achieve, in high school, so that high academic quality schools like the University are not out of their range before they even think of applying.

  3. Submitted by Andy Howe on 05/22/2016 - 06:28 am.

    A few things that are missing.

    According to the authors, the most needy students get about $15,800 per year. About 50% graduate in four years while all others graduate in five or six years. The total cost of attendance is about $27,000. Doing the math, that means low-income students are in debt $44,800 if they get out in four years. If not, add about $11,200 for additional years of enrollment. That is nothing to defend or be proud of!

    The number of students from the lowest income is on a downward spiral while highest income is going upward substantially. For example, the number of students from families making $30,000 or less has declined since 2009 to 2013 by 10%.

    The average income of families has risen substantially while caps have been put on enrollment. This means that the wealthy is pushing out the poor due to policies developed by these two authors and others.

    There is no such thing as “need blind” admissions. Recruitment in high schools from wealthy districts will yield a high number of wealthy students while limited recruitment in schools from lower income districts will yield lower numbers of low-income students.

    Comparing themselves to the Big Ten is hardly a benchmark to be proud of when all the schools in the Big Ten (all but one or two — maybe) are being criticized of being too expensive. Come on!

    They didn’t mention the increase in merit aid, which mostly goes to the wealthy. I wonder why they didn’t mention it.

    I can go on and on….I hope the readers will see through their smoke and mirrors. Real change needs to happen — not this stuff.

    Most of these numbers can be found on the University’s institutional research data website.

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