Promise Scholars program eases transfer for Pell Grant recipients
A new scholarship established by William & Mary and Richard Bland College will ease transfer from Richard Bland while making entry to William & Mary more affordable for high-ability, low-income students.
Beginning in the spring of 2018, the two schools, each of which is governed by William & Mary’s Board of Visitors, have agreed to establish the Promise Scholars program. The new transfer program was announced today by the presidents of both institutions at an event at Richard Bland College.
“This initiative has real potential,” said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “The Promise Scholars program provides an opportunity for a very able cohort of students to begin their William & Mary education while enrolled at Richard Bland.”
The program will provide William & Mary courses and faculty at Richard Bland, scholarship funds, guaranteed housing, peer-to-peer support and mentorship to high-achieving, low-income students who have committed to transferring to W&M.
“Partnerships that create pathways to high-demand baccalaureate degrees are central to fulfilling Richard Bland’s mission,” said Richard Bland President Debbie Sydow. “This new pathway to William & Mary is going to be a game changer for deserving Richard Bland students.”
This spring, Richard Bland will select and provide merit-based scholarships to the inaugural cohort of up to 15 first-year, in-state students who are eligible for federal Pell Grants. Promise Scholars will receive a $2,000 merit scholarship in their second year at Richard Bland and receive guaranteed housing designated for Promise Scholars to foster community and peer-to-peer support. Beginning next fall, Richard Bland also will begin awarding a new scholarship of the same amount to first-year students selected for the program.
William & Mary will select two faculty members as Promise Fellows who will travel to the Richard Bland campus to teach a general education course, beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year, to give the students selected as Promise Scholars the opportunity to experience William & Mary while at Richard Bland.
In partnership with Richard Bland Learner Mentors, the William & Mary Faculty Fellows will serve as academic advisors to the Richard Bland students, continuing to provide support to each cohort after they transfer to William & Mary.
“What excites me about the Promise Scholars program is that it will give talented Richard Bland students a more affordable path to a William & Mary education,” said Virginia Del. Kirk Cox, an alumnus of Richard Bland College and speaker-designee for the House of Delegates, the first public school teacher to ascend to that position.
Once the scholars transfer to William & Mary, they will receive annual $3,500 scholarships to offset student loans during their last two years. The scholarships will be in addition to any financial aid for which the students qualify, which will equate to a no-loan, all-grant financial aid package, enabling these students to finish their degrees at William & Mary without student debt. The Scholars also will be guaranteed on-campus housing their junior year.
The Promise Scholars program comes in addition to guaranteed admission and co-enrollment tracks, two longstanding transfer agreements between Richard Bland and William & Mary, but it aims specifically to facilitate higher rates of transfer for high-ability, low-income students.
“The fact that Richard Bland and William & Mary share a Board of Visitors makes this level of collaboration easier,” said John Littel, chair of the Richard Bland Committee of the William & Mary Board of Visitors. “We hope this can be a model program for others, and we believe that giving talented Richard Bland students a direct academic experience with William & Mary before they formally matriculate will improve their success.”
Promoting an economically diverse undergraduate student body is one of William & Mary’s goals. In addition to year-over-year increases in Pell Grant-eligible students, by 2020 William & Mary aims to increase by 50 percent the number of admitted in-state students from families with annual incomes of $60,000 or less.
This fall, William & Mary saw a 20 percent increase in Pell-eligible new students — both freshmen and transfers — as compared to last year, and a 30 percent increase compared to three years ago. There was also an 11 percent increase in first-generation college students in the new class.
While the progress indicates that William & Mary is doing a better job in communicating its affordability to high school seniors, Littel said it’s just as important to make sure that Virginia’s junior and community college students recognize the opportunity and affordability the university offers.
William & Mary was recognized by the New York Times in 2017 as being among the nation’s leading colleges and universities in commitment to access and affordability for low- and middle-income students, and the No. 1 public university in Virginia. The Times’ report considered the percentage of students qualifying for Pell Grants, graduation rates and the net price for low- and middle-income students.