PaSSS (Pathways to Success Summer Start)

PaSSS (Pathways to Success Summer Start)

Penn State Mont Alto takes college affordability one step further. "This program essentially allows selected students to complete a semester of college at half price, thus reducing cost and time to degree. It shows our commitment to making a Penn State education accessible and affordable." — Dr. Francis Achampong, Chancellor

Since being designated as the Commonwealth’s land-grant University in 1863, Penn State has provided working class and low income families with increasing access to a high-quality education and Penn State Mont Alto has been on the frontlines of this access mission.

With the majority of future jobs requiring some form of post-secondary education, a college education has become more essential than ever before. In furtherance of its commitment to making a Penn State education affordable, Penn State Mont Alto raised $5.4 million over the seven-year, For the Future capital campaign and increased its scholarship endowment from $4.4 million to over $7 million. In 2015, the campus demonstrated its commitment to affordability by providing $554,000 in scholarship support to 400 students to help them realize their dreams of earning a college degree. This means that approximately forty percent of Mont Alto students received scholarship support from the campus last year.

Building on its mission to make a Penn State education affordable, Penn State Mont Alto will launch a special program in the summer of 2016 that will allow recent in-state, high-school graduates who have been admitted to the campus and selected to meet certain priority criteria to take up to six credits of general education at half price. The program, known as Pathways to Success Summer Start (PaSSS) is a University-wide initiative funded by the Provost’s Office under the auspices of President Eric Barron’s Access and Affordability Imperative.

Twenty to thirty students will be selected to participate in PaSSS using financial, socio-economic, and academic criteria. Each will be awarded a scholarship of $1,500 to take up to six credits of general education courses and a $400 book stipend. Participants will also be offered a twenty-hour-a-week job on campus or with a local non-profit for a total of 100 hours at $10 an hour over a five-week period. Throughout the program, the students will be offered tutoring and mentoring and opportunities to participate in campus life activities.

Students who do well during the first year, will be invited to participate again in the program next summer and allowed to take up to 12 credits with a $3,000 scholarship and a $400 book stipend. They will also be offered a twenty-hour-a-week job on campus or at a local non-profit for a total of 200 hours at $10 an hour over a ten-week period. Second-year participants will also serve as mentors to students who are participating for the first time.

The program, which has already been piloted at six campuses, has been a great success and is now being extended to three more campuses, including Penn State Mont Alto. Students who participated in the program have rated it highly as a great way to start their college careers. In surveys administered to the participants, students have commented that they have become more comfortable with the classroom experience; that they now have a taste of what college will be like; that the program gave them a sense of the support they will receive towards succeeding in college; and that the program has prepared them for their first year. Students almost universally said they would return a second year and would recommend the PaSSS program to other students.

The program does not currently have a residential component, therefore, all students selected to participate will commute to the campus. However, conversations about a possible future residential component are ongoing.

Penn State Mont Alto expects this program to help retain students, help them attain better grades, and motivate them to graduate on time and at lower cost. The campus will monitor and assess the program in order to further improve the students’ experiences.

“This program essentially allows selected students to complete a semester of college at half price, thus reducing cost and time to degree. It shows our commitment to making a Penn State education accessible and affordable,” said Dr. Francis Achampong, chancellor of the Penn State Mont Alto campus.

For more information about the PaSSS program, please contact Dr. Michael Doncheski, Penn State Mont Alto director of academic affairs. He can be reached at mad10@psu.edu or at 717-749-6051.