Amid a pandemic that has generated significant uncertainty, Wofford College has maintained its focus on identifying new ways to ensure talented students from lower-income backgrounds have the support needed to realize their potential. To support this effort, the American Talent Initiative has selected Wofford for the inaugural round of its Promising Practice Accelerator, which is set to launch this month.
The program has funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Wofford is one of eight American Talent Initiative members receiving a $25,000 grant to pilot or expand an initiative this semester that can transform outcomes for students from lower-income backgrounds.
“Wofford College looks forward to piloting a program that will support keeping talented students on campus,” said Brand Stille, Wofford’s vice president of enrollment. “Wofford has long been committed to the personal and academic success of our students, and our work with the American Talent Initiative will reinforce this commitment on our campus and as we share best practices with others.”
Wofford will use its five-month grant to pilot an initiative that will incentivize student retention with $1,000 end-of-semester awards. Fifty students with demonstrated financial need who have shown academic progress will receive the awards. The grants are designed to offset gaps in financial aid that contribute to a higher risk of attrition. Rewarding academic success also is intended to foster a sense of belonging. Eligible students will receive enhancements each semester as part of their financial aid award through graduation as long as they remain in good academic standing. If successful, other institutions can use Wofford’s low-cost, scalable blueprint to increase affordability and retention.
In the most recent edition of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of colleges, Wofford ranked No. 73 in social mobility among national liberal arts colleges. The college has climbed 45 spots in the social mobility rankings since 2019. The ranking measures how well colleges graduate students receiving Pell Grants, which are typically given to students from households with annual incomes of less than $50,000.
Ninety-five percent of Wofford’s students receive some form of financial aid. The college’s average financial aid package exceeds $35,000, and every applicant is considered for merit-based scholarships.
Other ATI members in the Promising Practice Accelerator include Barnard College (New York, New York), Hope College (Holland, Michigan), Lebanon Valley College (Annville, Pennsylvania), Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey), Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, New York), University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Knoxville, Tennessee).
Projects receiving funding will range from new, cohort-based programs and student success resource hubs to retention incentives for lower-income students and faculty engagement programs.