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.