To even the playing field and to break the cycle of poverty, Missouri State University has taken a stance: The university is making it easier to access a college education. It’s in recognition that higher education helps people overcome socio-economic boundaries and achieve success.
Dr. Ryan Reed, coordinator of access programs at Missouri State, says his office develops partnerships and scholarship programs with community organizations and foundations to make college affordable for first-generation, low-income students. Then they work to improve the retention and persistence rates of these students by providing academic support programming, advising and referrals.
“It’s really been a point of emphasis to really increase our student body as far as the population that we serve,” Reed said. “President Smart and the board really want to make Missouri State University look like the state of Missouri, so creating opportunities for students who might not otherwise be able to come to Missouri State is important for us.”
Currently, access programs partners with:
- Kauffman Scholars Inc.
- Wyman Center
- College Bound
- KIPP St. Louis
- 100 Black Men of St. Louis
- All Boys & Girls Clubs in Missouri
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri
- The Ellis Foundation
These access program partnerships lower the entry barrier – to allow everyone an opportunity to get a degree. Since the students come from families with fewer financial resources and less familiarity with the higher ed system, and may also come from less academically rigorous schools, Reed says the biggest challenges are finances and academics.
“We have a lot of resources from academic help to food pantries and clothing closets,” he said. ” The scholarship program helps. But there are opportunities for them to still need books or support transportation wise. So we work hard to make sure they are getting those resources financially.”