New Trend: College Programs That Provide a Mentor for Every Student

Posted By Eliana Osborn on March 3, 2016 at 9:22 am
New Trend: College Programs That Provide a Mentor for Every Student

Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania may be a small school you’ve never heard of, but they are moving forward on a plan to give every single student a mentor.  Mentorships are one of the proven strategies for college success, so larger campuses will be watching to see how the Muhlenberg program progresses.

A 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index survey of 30,000 college graduates found that mentoring was one of the most important factors in life success and happiness after college. Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup, wrote about the study results in an opinion piece. “Gallup has talked with many higher ed leaders about these findings, and it has been heartening to learn how many leaders are energized by having fresh insights about the importance and value of mentoring relationships in college. But it has also been frustrating to hear how many believe it’s too costly or unreasonable to ensure that every college student receives mentoring.”

One of Busteed’s suggestions is to look for mentors among alumni, which is just what Muhlenberg is doing. Alumni are an untapped resource, other than from a financial standpoint. A pilot group of 80 students will have to reach out to someone from the alumni database. They’ll select someone with shared interests, and take this baby step forward in networking—and emotional support.

Muhlenberg president John Williams is hoping mentoring will be one way small liberal arts schools can stay relevant in a changing higher education landscape. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Williams’ aims are explained. “The goal of the mentoring program is to help liberal arts students navigate that world. They will seek out mentors with similar career interests, but mentors will also be expected to help students figure out bigger, more personal questions: what they want to do, whom they aspire to be, what they want to achieve.

Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free community college to all high school seniors in the state. The program uses mentors throughout the state to help students navigate the application process. There are requirements for biweekly contact, with training for the volunteers. The goal? “Help students navigate the college admissions process and ensure they complete Tennessee Promise program requirements in order to receive the scholarship.”

Mentor opportunities are more frequent for upper level or even graduate students. Helping freshmen develop these relationships earlier has a positive effect on retention. That’s the idea behind College for Every Student, a program teaming 25,000 k-12 students with a mentor to help them be college ready. The more cheerleaders a student has—at any age—the better his or her chances of success.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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