B-Schools Enrolling The Most 1st-Gen Students

Drexel’s Lebow College of Business

MULTIPLE PROGRAMS IN PLACE AT MERAGE FOR ADDED SUPPORT

Merage is the on-campus home for the university’s TRIO Scholars Program and Summer Bridge program targeting support for first-generation students. In the school’s experience, first-generation students enter college without the same support as their classmates. Students with at least one parent holding a bachelor’s degree have an at-home academic advisor, career counselor, and voice-of-experience, Patrick says. To overcome this, the school’s Campus Connections team not only provides a Foundations for Success class that helps them transition to college, there are also opportunities to be mentored by faculty and staff. Because new programs and support systems are adjusted and set up according to feedback from the students, Merage will be initiating a new mentoring program starting Fall 2018. First-generation freshmen students who join the business school in 2018 will be mentored by upper-division Merage students. The program is appropriately led by Associate Director Nadia Ortiz Kast, who was a first-generation student herself, and was hired to develop such programs to increase the success of low-income, first-generation students.

“We are extremely fortunate in the Merage School to have a strong academic advisor to student ratio and a group of truly extraordinary advisors. We provide all of our majors with full access to an academic advisor via walk-in throughout each business day in addition to the option of scheduling individual appointments,” says Patrick, noting that there are plans to grow the school’s career services for added support of their large first-generation college student population. “Our BA Career Services team is housed adjacent to the academic advisors to facilitate collaboration and easy access for students.”

According to the Merage School, 81% of University of California first-generation students graduate, but at their business school, more than 90% of first-generation students graduate. In June 2017, the school came in first in The New York Times’ College Access Index for the second consecutive time. The institute has also been assigned by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-serving and Asian-American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution.

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Back at the Lebow College, the school ranked eighth nationally in the 2016 Princeton Review for providing the greatest opportunity for minority students. One of the main reasons for the honor was the success of the school’s four-year-old BRIDGE program, mentioned above. Early last year (2017), the first class of BRIDGE participants graduated from the school. The school reported that there were 110 students in the program, and that 90% of students in their first class graduate within five years. The result is a significant improvement over the 59% six-year average in 2015 nationally and even better than the overall average at Drexel University where 66% of students in the 2015 class graduated within five-years.

Another way in which Lebow supports it’s large first-generation college student population is by encouraging students to look past individual differences, to appreciate the diversity of experiences, talents, backgrounds, and visions of their classmates and faculty. As of 2016, the school reported that 30% of Lebow faculty identified as being part of an underrepresented group, and that they had students from 135 different countries.

As part of their diversity and inclusion efforts, the school hosts regular roundtable events where industry players are invited to share their experiences and diversity efforts. The series has seen Comcast executives and other established company representatives come together in conversation. In a 2017 discussion about race and sport, including the controversial take-a-knee movement started by Colin Kaepernick, the school invited Washington Post writer and journalism professor Kevin Blackstone and Ivan Soto, executive director of the Arena Football League Players Union, among others, to the table.

FAMILY SUPPORT IMPORTANT, TOO

Because the school knows there’s only so much they can do, Ellis says the best and most crucial way for a family to support a first-generation college student is to simply be present. Lebow deliberately organizes a multitude of events to create opportunities to celebrate individuals. Whether it’s an end-of-year banquet or mid-term gathering, parents and families are encouraged to join in celebrations of the student’s successes. “Even prior to matriculation, attendance by family and friends of first generation students at opens houses, accepted student days and move-in day, establishes a culture of support, care and encouragement,” Ellis says.

Of the 82 schools that participated in the survey by Poets&Quants, 24 reported not tracking the number of students who identified as being first-generation college attendees. At the bottom of the list of schools that declared a percentage was American University’s Kogod School of Business with first-generation students making up just 0.09% of the population, and Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business with a 1% first-generation student rate.

“There is a reason that providing access and diversity is written into the Merage School strategic plan for the benefit of society,” Eric Spangenberg, dean of the Paul Merage School of Business, says. “When you help these bright and deserving students get a top business education, not only do you benefit their immediate families and communities, you impact many more families and communities of the future as these students enter the workplace and build organizations that support those communities.”

(See the next page for the entire data set of first-generation students at the 82 to B-schools.)

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