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St. Thomas to open new 2-year college to shrink the achievement gap

It's a more affordable option that will help students work up to a bachelor's degree.

The University of St. Thomas will be opening a new college next fall to help low-income students get an education.

According to a news release, the university's board of trustees voted Thursday to add a two-year college to its Minneapolis campus.

The Dougherty Family College is an effort to close the achievement gap by providing affordable "intensive, wrap-around education services" to "promising students" who may not be able to attend or succeed at other schools.

It'll offer an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts. And the courses will meet Minnesota Transfer Curriculum guidelines. That means college credit will transfer to other Minnesota schools if students want to pursue a four-year degree afterward.

That's the goal anyway. The university says it hopes this program will be the foot-in-the-door some students need to ultimately earn their bachelor's degree.

Right now, the plan is to admit 150 students when it first opens. The college will start accepting applications as soon as it is approved to offer the A.A. degree.

Dougherty Family College is modeled after Arrupe College at Loyola University Chicago, St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan says. Arrupe College also offers a two-year degree to students from underserved communities.

Admission and cost

To be admitted to Dougherty Family College, students don't need to take the ACT. They will need a 2.5 or higher grade point average, though.

Students also must "have a high level of financial need."

There will be an interview to determine students' readiness and motivation, as well.

As far as costs, St. Thomas says the most "under-resourced" students may only pay $1,000 in yearly tuition. That's with the help of grants, scholarships and corporate support.

Without any financial help factored in, the estimated tuition and fees for 2017-18 are $15,000. That's less than half the cost of a year at St. Thomas' four-year university.

The achievement gap

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three adults in America has a bachelor's degree.

Data from 2015 shows there's really not a difference when it comes to gender – 1 percent more women than men have bachelor's degrees – but there's a big difference when it comes to race.

In 2015, 54 percent of Asians held a four-year degree. That's followed by 36 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Then there's a significant gap. Only 23 percent of black people and 16 percent of Hispanic people had bachelor's degrees.

St. Thomas' president says that in the Twin Cities, "the median yearly income of adults with a bachelor’s degree is $22,332 more than that of adults with only a high-school diploma."

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