Support Expanding for First-Generation, Low-Income Students

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A $10 million lead gift from A. George “Skip” Battle ’66 will promote student success.

A student walks on the sidewalk in front of Baker-Berry Library
Gifts totaling $13 million, led by $10 million from A. George “Skip” Battle ’66, will support first-generation and low-income students at Dartmouth. (Photo by Robert Gill)

Dartmouth is reaffirming and expanding its commitment to help first-generation and low-income students thrive and succeed, thanks to $13 million in private gifts, including a $10 million commitment from A. George “Skip” Battle ’66.

The gifts, which were announced on Feb. 7 at a regional campaign and 250th anniversary celebration in San Mateo, Calif., will create a more robust and comprehensive package of initiatives to support first-generation, low-income students as they make the transition to a highly selective academic environment.

“Although Dartmouth covers 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated financial need, we must do more to make sure all students have the tools and supportive programs they need to succeed,” President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 told about 400 alumni, family members, and friends. “Thanks to Skip’s generosity, we’re growing these essential programs to level the playing field for our first-generation and low-income students.”

With a goal through The Call to Lead campaign to secure a total endowment of $18 million for these initiatives, Dartmouth plans to expand the First Year Student Enrichment Program’s (FYSEP) signature pre-orientation introduction to College life from five days to four weeks, and create a cadre of peer academic coaches. The pre-orientation program will be fully expanded by 2020 and will serve approximately 100 members of the Class of 2024. Dartmouth intends to raise the remaining $5 million needed for this work over the coming year.

The new initiatives will promote equal access to all aspects of the Dartmouth experience for students with financial need. The College intends to triple funds available to cover emergencies and other needs not met through Dartmouth financial aid, ranging from medical costs and eyeglasses to professional attire for interviews and living expenses during unpaid internships.

Trustee Mitch Kurz ’73 and his wife, Sandy; Ann and Leslie T. Chao ’78; Jennifer and Alan Fournier, parents of a member of the Class of 2019; Samantha Schnee ’92 and Michael Hafner ’89; Maxine ’93 and Roberto Mauricio ’90; Melissa and R. Bruce Rich ’70, and The Beloved in Christ Foundation join Battle in underwriting the expansion of the program.

Two days before the San Mateo gathering, President Hanlon announced an ambitious scholarship initiative in honor of Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary. The “250 for Dartmouth’s 250th” initiative aims to raise the number of scholarships endowed through the Call to Lead campaign to 250 during this anniversary year. That would mean creating 102 scholarship endowments of $100,000 or more by Dec. 31.

Together, the new scholarships and expanded first-year, low-income student initiatives will make a Dartmouth education more accessible and affordable for generations to come.

A Holistic Approach to Addressing Income Inequality

Established in 2009, FYSEP supports incoming students of limited financial means who are the first in their families to attend college. Participation has more than tripled during the past decade, with the program serving 92 members of the Class of 2022.

“Income inequality is one of the urgent concerns of our time,” said Battle, who was the first member of his family to attend a four-year college. “Over the past decade, Dartmouth has done a good job of opening its arms to prospective students who have the character and the capability to do well here—regardless of their resources—but making the transition today can be so much harder than when I was a student.

“I compare it to a bicycle race,” he added. “Students who come from really good schools and whose parents attended college come to the starting line with momentum. Many first-generation students come to the starting line less prepared for the race to begin, so it takes them a while to build up speed.”

Currently, students begin their FYSEP experience with a five-day residential pre-orientation introduction to Dartmouth, conducted by the part-time program director, campus resource staff, and 10 dedicated faculty who represent academic divisions. Juniors and seniors, many of whom are first-generation students themselves, provide program support for incoming peers. The pre-orientation session offers sample classes with faculty in a low-pressure environment and introduces strategies to address some of the challenges—academic and social—that students may face in their first year.

FYSEP also provides students with ongoing enrichment activities throughout their first year as part of a supportive community.

Programs for first-generation, low-income students benefit the entire campus community, says Brian Reed, associate dean for student academic support services and dean of undergraduate students.

“A classroom discussion about homelessness may be abstract to many students,” he said. “But we have students in our program who have experienced homelessness and can talk about it firsthand.”

Beyond FYSEP, Dartmouth offers mentoring and other resources to help all first-generation students and students from low-income families throughout their undergraduate years.

A Record of Achievement: FYSEP Completes Its First Decade

During its first 10 years, FYSEP has enhanced the academic performance of participants. FYSEP students have achieved a higher grade-point average than their peers who did not participate in the program; their current six-year graduation rate exceeds 95 percent—compared to a national average of less than 50 percent; and FYSEP students are likely to tap into a variety of on-campus support programs.

Many first-generation, low-income students have earned undergraduate honors at Dartmouth. Of the seven most recent recipients of the Churchill Prize, four were FYSEP students.

Gricelda Ramos ’18 is a recent first-generation student recognized for achievement at Dartmouth. Last year, her classmates selected Ramos to serve as a senior class marshal. Ramos now attends the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Another FYSEP student, Andrew Nalani ’16, received the Barrett Cup award at the annual class day. Now a Steinhardt doctoral student at New York University, Nalani spoke last fall at the Gates Foundation’s United Nations General Assembly meeting.

Skip Battle ’66: A Legacy of Support

The FYSEP gift is Battle’s second major commitment through the Call to Lead, raising his campaign support to $15 million. In 2015, the Battle family made a challenge gift to spearhead fundraising for the new Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, which opened last year. Prior to the campaign, Battle has provided gifts to Dartmouth’s Ethics Institute and women’s rugby program.

After graduating from Dartmouth and receiving his MBA at Stanford, Battle held a variety of positions at Arthur Andersen LLP and then Andersen Consulting LLP over 27 years. He is now a senior fellow and senior moderator at the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies think tank. He has served on the boards of several corporations during the past three decades, including Expedia, LinkedIn, Netflix, and OpenTable.

“Supporting first-generation and low-income students is a great investment,” says Battle. “We’re helping make these students more influential within the campus community, which benefits everyone at Dartmouth—and ultimately it benefits the communities where they’ll live, and our entire country.”

Find out how to support the First-Year Student Enrichment Program.

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