Rutgers’ Grand Experiment

Rutgers University is doing some great things. Five years ago, they created the Rutgers Future Scholars program, designed to offer low-income students the opportunity to attend Rutgers for free when they graduated high school, and this year was the first graduating class. What’s the catch? The students were in seventh-grade at the time and had to commit to an intensive program where they gave up their summers to attend prep classes, leadership-building activities and other programs at Rutgers. They also received year round mentors, tutors and counselors.

Rutgers offered this program to 200 students in urban cities where their campuses are located (New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden). Of those 200 hundred students, 183 students successfully completed the program, which beats New Jersey’s graduation rate, and 163 are going to college. Many of the students in this program are the first from their family to attend college, so they have not seen the benefits of a college education first hand. Rutgers continues to invest $1.6 million a year from donated funds (top donors are AT&T and Merck) to run this program. The success of this program raises a few questions, what about this program makes it successful, and why aren’t more colleges doing this?

As a teacher, and a fan of psychology, I often wonder what motivates students to succeed. In this case, is the intrinsic motivation (pushing yourself to be the first in your family to go to college, striving for a better life) stronger than the extrinsic motivation (free college tuition)? In this case, I feel it is a little bit of both. Many of these students admitted that they never thought they could attend college because their family could not afford it, but when that was taken out of the equation, their intrinsic motivation took over. Once these students saw that people believed in them, and they gained self-confidence to believe that they could actually succeed, they pushed themselves to that higher level. This would be a grand psychological experiment that could solve one of our country’s biggest problems, an uneducated public.

I hope the success of this program continues and that Rutgers, and other colleges, takes a deep look at the outcome, to see what is driving that success. Hopefully other colleges pick up on this success because it will open the door to a new generation of learners.

Sound off!: What are your thoughts on Rutgers’ grand experiment? Start the discussion below.

To read more about this story, please use the link below:

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply