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Transforming Struggles Into Success: UC’s Gen-1 House Receives National Award

A University of Cincinnati living and learning community is praised for helping students most at risk for dropping out of college overcome their obstacles to success.

Date: 2/19/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati’s Gen-1 House – a living and learning community to support first-generation freshmen from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – is one of only three “exceptional initiatives” in the Midwest to be honored with the first CollegeKeys Compact™ Innovation Awards. The honor includes a $5,000 award to support the Gen-1 House. The awards will be celebrated at the 2010 College Board Midwestern Regional Forum, Feb. 21-22, in Chicago, Ill.
Gen-1 House
Gen-1 House

The recognition for UC’s Gen-1 House reflects effective college initiatives that provide essential academic support, financial aid and targeted social and emotional support to students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

First-generation undergraduate college students are children of parents who either did not attend college or did not complete a college degree. UC’s Gen-1 House, which first opened in 2008, serves freshmen who are most at risk for dropping out of college – first generation, Pell eligible students – by providing a 24/7 structured living and learning environment, as well as tutoring and mentoring support. Financial support has included the Pell Grant, financial aid advising and additional funding to offset costs of meal plans and computers at the house. The community currently houses 24 students.

Gen-1 House

The Innovation Awards celebrate some of the nation’s most powerful efforts to improve the academic success of students from low-income backgrounds. The UC award will be presented to Stephanie Cappel of UC’s Partner for Achieving School Success (PASS) Center in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, and Caroline Miller, senior associate vice president and associate provost for enrollment management.

“UC has a long tradition in enrolling students who are traditionally underserved by research extensive campuses, and we've learned a few things along the way,” Miller says.  “Among the things we have learned is that we need to redefine the ways we do this work so that access really does result in success. Gen-1 House is a cameo in that effort. We have high expectations of these students and are very proud of the staff who support them.”

UC’s Gen-1 House is currently planning a local celebration of the honor beginning at 4 p.m., Thursday, March 25, at Stratford Pavilion, located at 2674 Stratford Ave. The current students living at the Gen-1 House will take part in the celebration, as will UC President Gregory H. Williams, a first-generation college student who earned five degrees, including a JD and PhD from George Washington University.  The reception will be followed by a visit to the Gen-1 House, located at 2647 Stratford Ave.

About the UC Gen-1 House

The house has been highlighted in national publications including the New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, the Associated Press and most recently, College Planning & Management magazine, for its innovations in supporting at-risk college students. The house serves freshmen who are most at risk for dropping out of college – first generation, Pell eligible students – by providing a 24/7 structured living and learning environment, as well as tutoring and mentoring support. The Gen-1 House holds single and double suites along with a study room, living room, recreation room, dining areas and kitchen and laundry room.

Gen-1 House

Located in the tudor-style Stratford Heights complex on Clifton Avenue, the housing community, supported by the UC Partner for Achieving School Success (UC PASS) Center in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH), aims to help these at-risk students have a successful freshman year in college, return to UC for their sophomore year, and complete their baccalaureate degree within six years.

The 26-bed housing community first opened to 15 first-generation, Pell-eligible freshmen in September 2008. The house has a full-time program coordinator, as well as a graduate assistant, who live at the home and serve as mentor/advisors. Program supports include mentoring, individual and small-group tutoring, voluntary and mandatory study sessions, frequent monitoring of student academic performance and social activities and professional counseling and guidance. Students also participate in a weekly course, “Surviving and Thriving at UC,” which emphasizes building strengths in study skills and time management. The course yields one credit hour per quarter.

Residents must sign a seven-page contract in addition to abiding by procedures outlined in UC student and housing codes of conduct. The contract includes committing to all mandatory tutoring and study sessions, abiding by a curfew and observing evening and overnight quiet hours to maximize study time. Students must commit to earning a minimum GPA of 2.25 per academic quarter and achieve a cumulative GPA of 2.33 by the end of winter quarter. They commit to tidying their room and shared spaces in the house. They must also agree to work no more than 20 hours a week when classes are in session.

“Economic realities often force first-generation, first-year, low-income college students to sacrifice their college experience, academic performance and educational success for financial necessity,” explains program coordinator Judy Mause. “Too often, these students choose to live at home, commute to school and work as much as 40 hours a week just to meet their financial commitments.”

In the 2008 report from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, “Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students,” it was stated that 24 percent of all of the nation’s undergraduate students are first-generation students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The report also found that these students were four times more likely to drop out of college during or after their freshman year, compared with their peers who were not first-generation, low-income students.

That same report found that the college experience may play a factor in whether these high-risk students continue to stay on the pathway to achieving a college degree. That’s because they’re less likely to participate in activities that connect them to their college experience, including both academic and social activities. UC’s Gen-1 House establishes these connections under one roof.

The house grade-point-average (GPA) for the 2008-2009 autumn quarter was 2.38. The GPA of residents who remained fully enrolled and engaged during the 2008-2009 winter quarter was 2.57. Twenty-four freshmen moved into the living community last fall, including 14 men and 10 women. The Gen-1 house is currently represented by 22 African-American students and two white students.

UC has approximately 30 themed student housing communities among its residence hall floors and the Stratford Heights Complex, ranging from service, STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine), college floors, ROTC, athletics, Greek organizations and students in the University Honors Program for academically talented students.

About UC’s Partner for Achieving School Success Center (PASS)

The center in the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) works to promote equality by providing full access to opportunities through quality education, experiences and relationships that empower youth.  In addition to the Gen-1 House, initiatives include the federally funded GEARUP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness in Undergraduate Programs) SCORES! partnership that delivers college awareness and readiness programs and services to a cohort of more than 4,700 students in Cincinnati Public Schools. The center also houses the Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI), an education-based program aimed at keeping young people who age out of the foster care system on track to a higher education. The pilot program first got underway last year by matching mentors with 25 high school seniors in Hamilton County foster care. The next round of mentors will work with high school juniors in foster care.

About the CollegeKeys Compact

The CollegeKeys Compact was launched in October 2007 following a two-year review of independent research, policy and practices in academic preparation and planning, admission, financial aid, and retention. A report issued by the College Board found that nearly one-half of all college-qualified low- and moderate-income high school graduates do not enroll in a four-year college program because of a combination of poor preparation, low expectations and financial barriers. The goal of Compact participants is to see that students from low-income backgrounds are represented in, and graduate from, colleges and universities at the same rate as their more affluent peers.
The compact is also driven by College Board members’ commitment to the belief that all underserved students have a right to an affordable, accessible and successful college experience. The compact continues to invite all schools, colleges and universities to accept its call to action. The initiative proposes a number of possible activities, including the creation of partnerships to provide more mentors for young people, ensuring the availability of rigorous high school curricula; the waiving of fees for college applications for these target students; educating administrators, counselors and teachers to understand the reality of financial aid needs; providing additional tutoring and supplemental instruction, as well as culturally relevant programming; and improving course alignment and acceptance agreements between two- and four-year institutions.

The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board is composed of more than 5,700 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations. Each year, the College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools, and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college readiness, college admission, guidance, assessment, financial aid and enrollment.


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