Return to Program Profiles Franklin College

Franklin College was founded in 1834 by pioneering Baptist settlers and today is a four-year, undergraduate liberal-arts college with about 1,000 students. Most students hail from Indiana, but many come from other states and countries with about one-third being first-generation college students. Although the college has had various programs in place to address the needs of this student population, the CIC/Walmart College Success Award allowed the college to develop the Franklin First Scholars and the Franklin First Families programs.
The project addressed three factors that have particular impact on the retention, graduation, and placement of first-generation students: student and family awareness of the academic and social expectations of college; student and family ability to negotiate college systems and environment; and student and family access to a network of contacts. Eighty students from the 2010 entering cohort were invited to become Franklin First Scholars, and their families were invited to become Franklin First Families. These students were first-generation college students from families living in Johnson County and its contiguous counties or they were students of color. Twenty-five students and their families joined the program. For 2011, there were 36 Franklin First Scholars, along with their families.
The programs involved five principal components: 1) a summer bridge experience to introduce students and their families to the college’s expectations and environment through an orientation program and a service learning project; 2) a mentoring relationship with an alumnus, alumna, or friend of the college who committed to working with the student and the family for two years; 3) two special sections of the New Student Leadership Seminar dedicated to the Franklin First Scholars; 4) programming throughout the two years to help students set academic and career goals, combined with close monitoring of Franklin First Scholars during the first two years through early alerts and student achievement systems; and 5) a program of monthly webinars and two on-campus events each academic year for Franklin First Families.
The new student program coordinator oversaw the programs, and the college created a committee for the administration of the program with representatives from student affairs, academic affairs, alumni affairs, public relations, service learning, admissions, and engaged learning. This committee met on a monthly basis to report on the activities of the program and plan future activities.

Program Outcomes

Retention for the first cohort of Franklin First Scholars from fall to spring was 96 percent. Only one scholar did not return to the college for the spring semester. Retention for the entire cohort of first-year students for the same period was 90.3 percent. All but one remaining Franklin First Scholars returned in fall 2012, which made overall fall-to-fall retention for the group 84 percent (4 percent above the target), while retention for the cohort overall was about 77 percent, with other first-generation students retaining at about the same rate. This is especially significant given the targeted campus population of Johnson County (and contiguous counties) that were the focus of this effort.
Average cumulative GPA for Franklin First Scholars in 2010–2011 was 2.72, compared to 2.78 for the entire first-year cohort. The difference was much greater after the fall semester—2.62 for Franklin First Scholars compared to 2.91 for all first-year students, thus the gap narrowed significantly through the spring semester. For the second cohort, average GPA for the fall semester for Franklin First Scholars was 2.65 compared to 2.91 for all other freshmen. The gap narrowed slightly in the second semester, in which Franklin First Scholars averaged 2.71 compared to 2.93 for all other freshmen. GPA averages for Franklin First Scholars were nearly the same for both cohorts, but overall, 2011–2012 freshmen did better the second semester.
Fall-to-spring retention of the second cohort of Franklin First Scholars was 94 percent compared to 88 percent for all freshmen. Fall-to-fall retention was forecast to be similarly better for Franklin First Scholars than the rest of the cohort, about 84 percent.
The Franklin First Scholars program has now expanded (see below), and the institution is strengthened as a result.

Program Updates

The Franklin First Scholars program is now supported entirely by the college and was expanded to include three New Student Leadership Seminar sections for 2012–2013, with 53 students (or about half of Franklin’s first-generation entering students) enrolled in the summer bridge. The college has clear evidence that summer experiences prior to the first semester, when they target particular populations with effective programming and help students form cohesive and supportive peer groups, can help all students improve their resiliency in the face of first-year challenges and thus help all students improve their academic performance and retention. Four other summer bridge programs, enrolling more than 100 other entering students, are offered, all inspired by the success of Franklin First Scholars. Thus, over half of all entering first-year students at Franklin College have had a significant summer bridge experience.