CIC and Walmart Foundation Announce Winners of College Success Awards

5/17/2010 — Washington, DC

​​​The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Walmart Foundation announced today the second cohort of winners of the Walmart College Success Awards. Through the awards program, 30 CIC member colleges and universities, selected through a competitive application process, will receive substantial grants to help strengthen exemplary programs that support the education of first-generation students. The newly selected 30 institutions and the 20 initial College Success Award recipients (selected in June 2008) will work together as a network to assist first-generation college students, learn from one another, and serve as models for other colleges and universities.

CIC received a second grant of $3 million from the Walmart Foundation in 2009 to support the second cohort of award recipients. Twenty CIC member institutions with programs that show the greatest promise of increasing retention of the largest number of first-generation students were selected to receive grants of $100,000. Ten institutions that have established worthy projects with a smaller scope of impact or are more experimental in nature will receive $50,000 awards. All award winners have an undergraduate enrollment that includes at least 30 percent first-generation students among the most recent classes of first-year students.

“The 20 colleges and universities selected for the initial awards in 2008 have done a great job in rising to the challenges of retaining and graduating first-generation students,” said Walmart Foundation president Margaret McKenna. “The Walmart Foundation is proud to provide the opportunity for an additional 30 institutions to participate in the program and contribute to the growing body of knowledge on how best to support these students.”

In announcing the award winners, CIC President Richard Ekman said, “We are delighted by the recognition that this second grant from the Walmart Foundation gives to the role played by private colleges in educating first-generation students. Much attention has been focused recently on higher education as a key to making the United States workforce stronger and the country more competitive in the 21st century world economy. As the federal government and philanthropic leaders call for increased degree completion in higher education, small and mid-sized private institutions are an underutilized resource in this effort. Private colleges also enroll comparable or higher percentages of lower-income and first-generation students to public institutions and they require far less subsidy by state governments to succeed in meeting these national goals. Most importantly, small and mid-sized private institutions have moved beyond a focus on access to a record of unequalled success in retaining and graduating low-income and first-generation students.”

Citing data from the American Association of Community Colleges, Ekman noted that more than six million students a year enroll for credit at the nation’s community colleges. However, only 26 percent actually transfer to a four-year college. In addition, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the six-year graduation rate of first-generation students at public four-year institutions is only 44 percent compared with 61 percent at private colleges and universities. “In short, if we are to achieve the ambitious national goal of increased numbers of college graduates, the lessons learned from the experiences of private colleges will need to be heeded by national policymakers and others,” Ekman stressed.

The Walmart College Success Awards program will include a conference in 2011, online networking opportunities, and a final publication on best practices from both cohorts to be disseminated at the end of the grant period in 2013.

The 20 $100,000 award winners are:

Alma College, MI; Alverno College, WI; Berea College, KY; Catawba College, NC; Clark Atlanta University, GA; College of Notre Dame of Maryland; DePaul University, IL; Elizabethtown College, PA; Franklin College, IN; Guilford College, NC; Lynchburg College, VA; Mars Hill College, NC; Mercyhurst College, PA; Mills College, CA; Notre Dame de Namur University, CA; Rosemont College, PA; Stetson University, FL; Stevenson University, MD; Thomas College, ME; and University of St. Francis, IL.

The ten $50,000 award winners are:

Cardinal Stritch University, WI; Chaminade University of Honolulu, HI; Defiance College, OH; Emmanuel College, MA; Eureka College, IL; Heritage University, WA; McKendree University, IL; Saint Augustine’s College, NC; Wabash College, IN; and Woodbury University, CA.

The programs offered at these 30 institutions represent the wide range of approaches to working with first-generation students. Some institutions focus on the unique needs of a particular subset of first-generation students, such as Hispanic students, commuter students, transfer students from community colleges, or students pursuing a teaching career. A number of the award recipients offer transitional summer programs for incoming students that help prepare them for college-level work and life away from home. Others provide services such as mentoring, tutoring, career development, and providing scholarships and stipends to help ensure success for first-generation students.

For more information about the Walmart College Success Awards and the programs of the 30 winners, visit the CIC website at