Building a Bridge to Success
Point Foundation Creates Scholarship to Help LGBTQ Community College Students Transfer to Four-Year Degree Programs
By Point Foundation on June 1, 2017
Almost half of all undergraduates in the U.S. attend community colleges, and many of Point Foundation’s current and past scholarship recipients first attended community colleges before pursuing a four-year degree. Recognizing how community colleges can serve as a bridge between high school and a bachelor’s degree, in 2016 Point launched a pilot program to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community college students achieve their goal of transferring to a four-year college or university degree program.
Compared with students who begin their college experience in a four-year degree program, a greater percentage of community college students are low-income and/or the first in their family to attend college. While the majority aim to transfer to a four-year program and earn a bachelor’s degree, less than half will do so within six years of first enrolling at a community college.
LGBTQ students face additional challenges, including rejection by their families, higher rates of homelessness and, especially for transgender persons, being the victim of physical assault and violence. While 82% of the 11 students in the pilot year of Point’s community college scholarship recipients receive other forms of tuition aid, the same percentage of these LGBTQ students say they still struggle to pay for tuition and school-related expenses; compared with 53% of all first-year college students.
For Point, which is the nation's largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit, the community college scholarship program is another pathway it can help often marginalized young people progress toward a higher education degree; especially first generation students. Wells Fargo, a longtime partner of the Foundation, is providing support for this new initiative which will likely expand to 25 recipients for the 2017–2018 school year.
For Vanessa Watson, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a 2016 scholarship recipient, the’ $3,700 financial award allowed her to shift from being a part-time to a full-time student.
“I’ve been able to focus more on school, take a larger course load, and become more involved with campus activities, including taking on leadership positions,” she says.
As well as financial challenges, community college students seeking to advance to four-year degree programs also face transfer processes that are often confusing. The lack of peer role-models is especially acute for LGBTQ students seeking advice and guidance.
To help address these challenges, Point brings recipients of its community college scholarship to Los Angeles for a weekend symposium ahead of the fall semester each year. Symposium workshops focus on the college transfer process and preparing for the academic requirements of a bachelor’s degree program. The students also get to meet their peers from around the country, as well as current Point Scholars and Alumni.
“Affordability is only one of the roadblocks to a college degree,” explained Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Point Foundation. “LGBTQ students, particularly those from low-income families, immigrants, and people of color, often feel alone as they try to navigate a path to higher education. Point’s goal is to provide LGBTQ students practical guidance and the emotional support that comes from knowing people want them to succeed and are here to help.”
The 2017 class of Point Foundation Community College Scholarship recipients will be announced in late June for LGBTQ Pride Month. For more information visit www.pointfoundation.org/communitycollege.
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