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Rutgers To Recruit Future Students — Starting in Eighth Grade

Officials at Rutgers University in New Jersey hope that a new pilot program will help lure more minority and low-income students to the state institution.

During his recent annual address before the university, Rutgers’ President Richard L. McCormick announced the launch of the Rutgers Future Scholars Program. According to university officials, school districts in Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Piscataway — where Rutgers’ campuses are located — will select a group of eighth graders each year who will receive invitations to campus events, as well as college-planning advice and test preparation. The students will also receive a guarantee of free tuition if they are admitted to Rutgers.

“It really is part of a comprehensive program to work on diversity issues at the university,” says Courtney McAnuff, vice president for enrollment management at Rutgers. “We’re just concerned that there’s not enough opportunity for some of those youngsters who come from urban areas. And the university has made a commitment to the students that they will have no student loans if they go here.”

McAnuff says the university will work jointly with school district officials to identify between 160 and 200 “at-risk” students each year. Officials are expected to finalize selection criteria in coming weeks, McAnuff adds.

Each school year, selected students will be invited to participate in a variety of academic workshops involving environmental sciences, biology and medicine. Rutgers faculty will help design hands-on activities and experiments, McAnuff says.

Officials hope that the program’s various initiatives will encourage these students to perform well in high school and pursue higher education.

“Our first goal is to excite them about higher education and have them think about the opportunities at a university,” McAnuff says. “They will also think about the kind of jobs they can get and what their future would be like if they enter into college.”

McAnuff says officials developed the Scholars Program after examining the plight of low-income and minority students across the state. Both groups, McAnuff says, have high drop-out rates and minority males are especially falling behind their White counterparts.

“To have a situation where many people are not completing high school is not good for the state or for the country,” McAnuff says. “We ultimately hope that the state will look at it as a pilot and help support similar programs at other New Jersey schools.”

Dr. B. LeFra Young, superintendent of the Camden public school system, says the Scholars Program will provide an “exciting opportunity” to begin higher education discourse at an earlier age.

“You can’t wait until kids get to high school to talk about it (college). We need to create a culture for our young people so that they understand the impact college can have and those conversations have to start earlier,” Young says. “This Rutgers program is a perfect example of how many other universities need to provide access for these students so that they learn how to dream out and also so they know that there are financial resources and that it (college) can happen. Our students are born with ability and it’s up to adults to make them a part of that process.”

In his speech before the university community, Dr. McCormick also said he would establish and co-chair a Council on Diversity and Equity to organize more diversity initiatives at the university. Officials say Rutgers will also host and co-sponsor a national conference on diversity in higher education and society next year.

–Dana Forde


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