Community college scholars transition, reach higher
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By Tom Evelyn LEWISBURG, Pa. – Dan Tichinel was a hard-working carpenter looking for a better life for his wife and four children when he found himself unemployed for seven months in 2003. He decided then that he needed a new career and enrolled at Garrett College in western Maryland.
In his last semester before receiving his associates degree, Tichinel saw a flier describing a scholarship at Bucknell University and applied. At 30, he's preparing to start his sophomore year at the highly selective liberal arts college as a civil engineering major, an opportunity he couldn't have imagined just a few years ago.
Tichinel is among a group of 30 Pennsylvania and Maryland community college students attending a special summer session through July 20 at the University as part of the Bucknell Community College Scholars (BCCS) program. The program seeks out and supports highly motivated, high-achieving, low-to-middle income community college students who will transfer on a two-year scholarship to some of the country's best colleges or universities, including Bucknell.
Demographic shift It provides opportunities for qualified students with financial need while also helping to enhance diversity at these top institutions. At the same time, it addresses a demographic shift that is resulting in significant growth in community college enrollment, said Kurt Thiede, vice president for enrollment management at Bucknell.
"I believe that the Bucknell educational experience for all students is enriched by having a learning community that better reflects these changing demographics of the nation and the world," Thiede said. "Bringing in students with different backgrounds promotes a diverse learning experience for all of our students."
Bucknell was one of eight colleges and universities around the country selected by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to offer the program. The Foundation awarded Bucknell a four-year grant of $890,000 to support the initiative. The University is contributing to the program as well and plans to expand it significantly in coming years.
Five partner schools Students in the Bucknell program are recruited from five partner community colleges: Community College of Philadelphia, Garrett College (Md.), Harrisburg Area Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Montgomery County Community College.
In addition to demonstrating leadership skills and meeting income requirements, the students must have a grade-point average of about 3.5 and have an associates degree prior to transferring.
All of the students in the summer program receive full scholarships, including room and board.
Summer transition The six-week summer session, offered only by Bucknell, helps to prepare the students for the transition to a new academic and residential life experience, said Mark Davies, director of BCCS program and assistant vice president for enrollment management. The students take two courses in political science, psychology, or engineering and also attend one-day courses each week designed to enhance academic skills such as writing, library research, and technology use.
The classes are team-taught by Bucknell and partner community college faculty. In addition, the students are teamed up with student and faculty mentors who help orient them to life at Bucknell, including cultural, social, and recreational experiences. The mentors will continue to guide the scholars through the transfer process and support them throughout their two years at Bucknell.
"Many of these students are working, have family issues and have not been away from their communities for any extended period of time," Davies said. "It's a very different experience. We try to build a strong network of support."
Growing program Three of the program's students here this summer plan to enroll at Bucknell this fall. The University hopes to enroll at least 15 of this summer's students in the fall of 2008.
As part of its strategic plan for enrollment, Bucknell plans to build on the program far beyond the four-year funding commitment from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Thiede said. "The plan is to create an infrastructure and a campus culture that will allow us to enroll many more community college transfers each year beyond the life of the grant," he said.
Bucknell University is one of America's largest private liberal arts universities and is regularly ranked as one of the top 30 liberal arts universities in the country. Bucknell offers more than 50 majors and 60 minors, including the full range of liberal arts and pre-professional programs in law and medicine.
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