This fall, Edgar Morelos ’16 found himself face to face with David Dreier ’75 at the conclusion of the Dreier Roundtable’s first public policy conference on the hot issue of immigration.
A government major, Morelos, 24, told the former Congressman and CMC Trustee that the conference was deeply meaningful to him not only because he looks up to Dreier and aspires to hold elected office one day, but also because he is the son of immigrants. His parents come from the Mexican states of Jalisco and Chihuahua.
“One day I want to create more opportunities like the one that made it possible for me to come to CMC,” said Morelos. He transferred to the college this fall from Mt. San Antonio Community College in nearby Walnut.
Morelos is one of our first Conte Scholars, a program that started this fall and was established by business leader and policy entrepreneur J.P. Conte. Along with Dreier, Morelos also had a chance to meet his benefactor at the conference and express his thanks.
“I just told Mr. Conte how this scholarship has played such a huge role for me. It's changed everything for me. I wouldn’t be here without it,” he said.
The Conte Scholars Program is one example of a new program under The Student Imperative aimed at addressing the issue of access and affordability for many families.
How many CMCers need financial aid? That number has changed for us over the years. For a long time, more than 50-60% of our students received aid packages to attend CMC. Today, with this fall's entering freshman class, that financial aid percentage is under 50%.
While that signals that many of our families can afford the cost of a CMC education, that number also sends another implicit message to many mid- and lower-income families: Only those who can meet the full cost need apply. As a result, many passionate, motivated students, like Morelos, disqualify themselves before even filling out an application.
With the Imperative, President Hiram Chodosh, our Board of Trustees, and our Financial Aid and Development teams are getting a new message across before that self-disqualification happens: If you want to lead, if you deserve to join CMC’s special program, resources will not be an impediment. The College has prioritized the need to generate new sources of aid and scholarships as part of our commitment to need-blind admission, and meet-all-need financial aid packages for every deserving student regardless of his or her ability to pay.
Our progress so far
As of the publication of this article, we have already reached more than half the pledges and cash commitments towards the Imperative’s goal of raising $100 million. When that total goal is realized, we will use these resources to support our yearly financial aid budget, which includes institutional resources, loans, grants, ROTC funding, and other forms of support.
But these resources will also be used for more than supporting the financial aid budget. In national and global admissions pools, we want to seek out those students with particular interests and provide them with scholarships that include first-year summer experiences tied to their interests, key areas, and themes. We’ve always been renowned for helping students find successful career paths and exciting post-graduation opportunities—this will help us even more.
More than ever before, college diplomas and future earnings are closely tied. A new report released by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2018, 37 percent of jobs will require a high school diploma or less. Of these jobs, only one third will pay over $35,000 a year, the Minimum Earnings Threshold necessary to enter the middle class.
We’re developing a plan to build groups of first- and second-year students—we call them “cohorts”—with a wide diversity of backgrounds (first-generation Americans, for instance), students with special leadership qualities (as game-changers) or with substantive interests or commitments to specialized areas, such as public policy, human rights, global expertise and experience, etc.).
These cohort groups will be small (5-6 students in each class), and students in each will be eligible for a special first summer experience with a minimum stipend of $3,500. Our Career Services Center will work with student scholars to determine a transformational summer experience to help them begin the learning and networking that will serve them not only in their careers, but also in their lives.
The Conte Scholars Program is one example, while another will begin this spring with the Dreier Roundtable. The DRt will identify six incoming freshmen with an interest in government and public policy to receive stipends for summer experiences in public policy between their freshmen and sophomore years.
A third program also coming online in 2015 is the Wagener Family Global Scholars Program. The program, named after the family of Trustee Shaw Wagener ’81, is dedicated to supporting a cohort of Global Scholars in their summer experiences and study abroad programs. This program will support student preparation for a world that may be flatter in some ways but is persistently bumpy in others.
The Imperative is hardly more than a year old in the making; and yet our community is stepping up to the challenge. Several other funds tied to a variety of professional interests and the aspirational qualities of our students are also under development—we look forward to announcing many of these over the coming months once they've been formalized.
The Imperative's impact on our community
We realize that many readers will wonder, how is this different from past practices?
Merit- and need-based aid packages and specialized experiences are certainly not new at CMC or many other institutions in higher education. We have been doing many of these things in the past, but what we've never had was the level of coordination between departments and programs. What the Imperative calls for is a more coordinated framework to think collectively about how to align philanthropic resources with the full support and development of each and every student, including their financial needs.
The Imperative has also had a profound impact on our internal campus culture. The Imperative has caused our staff and faculty to work more closely together than ever before—a breaking down of those silos that often exist among departments and offices.
While CMC becomes more selective, the Imperative sends an important message to deserving prospective students and their families from all economic backgrounds: that we recognize their situations and want to offer our help.
And we already see encouraging preliminary results to this message. For the Class of 2019, the College has received an 18% increase in applications.
By increasing the options for affordability, our College benefits by attracting the very best students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and bringing a richer perspective to the leadership experience at CMC.
CMC will remain a destination for students from all over the globe who hunger to do great things one day—student who wish to tap into the unique ethos of leadership and social impact that CMC is known for … students like Edgar Morelos ’16.
DeVeres is Associate Vice President and Dean of Admission & Financial Aid at CMC. Josh Walter '01 is Director of Leadership Giving at CMC.
Is a college education worth the debt?
What a recent Pew study says
The quick answer: Yes. A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that, among Millennials ages 25 to 32, nine-in-ten surveyed said that their bachelor’s degree has paid off or will pay off in the future even though “the Great Recession and the subsequent slow recovery hit the Millennial generation particularly hard.”
Read more results from the Pew study: “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College.”