Written by Ed Osborn
Eligible students from Hartford who attend Eastern Connecticut State University can now receive $5,000 scholarships through the generosity of the Hartford Promise Foundation. The scholarships are renewable for four years based on the students maintaining full-time status and satisfactory academic progress. Students must also live on campus.
The $5,000 scholarships from Hartford Promise will be augmented by Eastern, with the University making up the difference between the direct cost of attendance and all other financial aid, including any family contributions, Pell Grants, Stafford loans and other aid.
Recipients of the scholarships are known as “Promise Scholars.” To be eligible, they must have continuously attended a high school in Hartford since ninth grade, been a Hartford resident throughout that time, have a 3.0 GPA or better and have a 93 percent or better high school attendance record. “We are grateful to the Hartford Promise Foundation for their leadership in supporting Hartford students who are attending our university,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “These are students who most likely would not be able to afford to attend college on their own, yet they have the same potential to succeed and the desire to achieve the American Dream. This level of support will change the lives of these young people. I cannot thank the Hartford Promise Foundation enough for their generosity, and for their commitment to educating our young people in Connecticut.”
“I love what I see happening at Eastern for Hartford students,” said Richard Sugarman, executive director of Hartford Promise. “Through Eastern’s initiatives in Hartford, we are seeing first-generation and underrepresented students transition to college and be successful in their studies. The work that Dr. Núñez and her team are doing is a model for Connecticut and beyond.”
Several Eastern programs have been created over the past decade under Núñez’s leadership to support student success and increase student retention and graduation rates. In 2008, with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, Eastern set about enhancing its academic support services. A one-stop-shop “Academic Services Center” was established, with tutoring services, advising, and supplementary math and writing instruction. Additional advisors were hired, an early warning system was implemented to identify and support students who were at risk academically, and other services were improved.
In addition to the need for effective support services, national data also shows that minority students are retained at higher levels when institutions support diversity among their faculty. Eastern has worked diligently to recruit more minority faculty members, and now has the highest percentage of minority faculty of any college or university in Connecticut.
As a result of these various efforts and programs, minority retention and graduation rates have improved dramatically at Eastern. For instance, a 2012 report by the Education Trust in Washington, D.C., found that the six-year graduation rate of Hispanic students at Eastern showed the largest rate of improvement from 2004 to 2010 in the nation. While the six-year graduation rate of Hispanic students at Eastern was only 20 percent in 2004, it tripled to 57.8 percent in 2010. This 37.8 percent rate of improvement was 10-fold that of all institutions included in the study, which averaged only a 3.5 percent rate of improvement over the six-year period.
Sugarman points to the progress that Eastern has made and says he hopes to help the University build on this success. “Our goal is to make sure all these students are successful in college and in the rest of their lives,” he said. “Hartford Promise is thrilled to partner with Eastern on this project; the Promise Scholars there will be in very good hands.”