Four-year institutions create two-year colleges to reduce barriers for low-income students

To help low-income students attend college with little to no debt, some four-year institutions are opening two-year schools with assistance from the Come to Believe Network (CTB). The new programs, funded largely by state and federal financial aid, seek to carve an affordable pathway for students from underserved communities to earn an associate credential and go on to complete a four-year degree, Inside Higher Ed reports. 

The CTB model was first implemented at Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit institution that founded its two-year Arrupe College in 2015. Arrupe offers an associate degree program in Liberal Arts, Business Administration, or Social and Behavioral Sciences, plus dual-degree programs where students take classes at another Loyola college while earning their associate degrees. Arrupe graduates can then complete their bachelor’s degree at another Loyola university within two to three years. Students also have access to resources to help them transfer to a four-year program at a host university.

All Arrupe students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid to secure Pell Grants and State of Illinois MAP Grants, which is expected to bring down the total net cost of attendance to less than $2,000 per year. Institutional scholarships and aid for undocumented students are also available.

According to Arrupe, more than three-quarters of its students graduate without debt. Families receive financial advising about college costs, grants, and scholarships before they enroll. Students also receive a laptop for coursework and have access to a daily, on-campus meal program that provides free breakfast and lunch. 

Related: Transfer process a persistent barrier for community college students seeking bachelor’s degrees >

More two-year colleges at four-year institutions

In 2017, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota followed the CTB model, creating the Dougherty Family College, a two-year college within the university. Similarly, Butler University in Indianapolis and the College of Mount Saint Vincent (CMSV) in the Bronx recently announced that they will establish two-year colleges in partnership with CTB network to fit the missions of their respective universities.

Butler plans to launch its two-year college in Fall 2025 with an inaugural cohort of 100 students, offering associate degrees in business, allied health, or a third, yet-to-be-determined major. Students also will be able to participate in paid internships that help them explore career paths. Leaders hope to raise enough money so that students pay no more than $10,000 total if they end up pursuing a four-year degree. 

CMSV plans to open Seton College in Fall 2024 with an initial class of 100 low-income students who have grades below the CMSV threshold of acceptance. Seton College students will be able to earn associate degrees in liberal arts, prehealth, business, and social sciences, as well as skills-based certificates through Coursera. Students also will have opportunities to access part-time employment with local partners.

Through CTB, four-year institutions that have a strong interest in opening two-year colleges to help low-income students in their area receive support from a broader network and $30,000 CTB in Design Grants, available for the first time in the 2022-23 academic year. Universities that go through with establishing two-year colleges receive an additional $500,000 in seed funding, which they must match. Eight universities are currently participating in this year’s grant program.

Early successes

Officials at Arrupe and the Dougherty Family College say that through their programs, ​​over 80% of their graduates transfer to four-year universities, and 75% of them earn a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, just 16% of students who first enrolled in community college complete bachelor’s degrees in six years, according to data from the National Clearinghouse Student Research Center.

Reverend Steve Katsouros, formerly the inaugural dean at Arrupe College and current president and CEO of the CTB Network, tells Inside Higher Ed that he hopes the CTB model will continue to reduce financial barriers to higher education. “I’m investing time and eventually financial support because I think this is going to be transformative for students and their communities,” he says.

Topics in this story

Next Up

Helping first-gen, underrepresented students explore careers in public service and international affairs

Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and Walsh School of Foreign Service recently partnered to host a free conference encouraging first-generation undergraduate students and students from other traditionally underrepresented groups to enter graduate programs and pursue careers in public service and international affairs.