College Access Programs As Levers For Systems Change


Five years ago, the Chair of Rutgers University’s Board of Trustees raised the concern that Rutgers admitted very few students from its home communities of Newark, New Brunswick, Piscataway and Camden.  Like many higher education institutions across the country, Rutgers University’s diversity came mostly from suburban and international communities and not from the New Jersey’s urban centers. In particular, low-income and first generation students from these urban communities hosting the campuses were not  at Rutgers.   Although there are programs funded by various government agencies and private organizations which are meant to facilitate the pathway for such students into and through postsecondary education, these programs have not produced broader impact on their schools and communities.  They tend to serve small numbers of students, focus narrowly on addressing one aspect of a holistic problem, work in silos, or founder in the face of leadership changes.

people in auditorium

Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) was created under the leadership of President Richard McCormick as an effort to develop an effective and scalable response to these urgent challenges.  Its immediate aim is to enable low-income, first generation students in New Jersey to successfully progress through middle school and high school, and enroll in and successfully complete a postsecondary education.  The program provides holistic support for students at key transition points of their education, including the transition from middle school to high school and onto postsecondary education. Rutgers Future Scholars assures full tuition and fees for all Scholars who complete the program and gain admission through regular channels to Rutgers University. RFS forms partnerships and alliances across multiple stakeholders, including the Scholars and their families, Rutgers University, and the school districts and communities of Newark, New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden. Rutgers Future Scholars connects and builds on these existing resources to maximize their impact on students and to create contexts that enable low-income, first generation students to persevere and succeed in high school and college and complete their undergraduate degrees.  When they partner with the relevant schools and communities, higher education institutions are well situated as anchor institutions to build pathways into and through post-secondary education for first generation students and underserved communities.

Through its work with the Center for Institutional and Social Change,, Rutgers Future Scholars has adopted social capital development and collective efficacy as its strategic framework.  Rutgers Future Scholars builds the social capital of its student participants by providing a network of support, enabling Scholars to develop the relationships, knowledge, academic capabilities, identity, and financial resources to successfully navigate the transition from middle school to high school, to graduate from high school, and to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. at colleges and universities across the country.

Project Description

The Center for Institutional and Social Change is working in partnership with Rutgers Future Scholars (“RFS”) and Rutgers University (“RU”) leadership to identify, describe, and develop RFS’ program model, strategies, and networks. The Center is helping to identify ways in which the program can build collective efficacy, and in turn, have impact on participating school districts and Rutgers University so that these institutions can create the conditions necessary for low income, first generation students in New Jersey to progress successfully through high school and to enter and thrive in postsecondary education. As part of this work, the Center is developing knowledge, tools, and strategies to be shared not only with RFS, but with scholars, practitioners, policymakers and students interested in educational access and success for underserved populations.

Project Collaborators

The Center for Institutional and Social Change is collaborating with many individuals directly involved with Rutgers Future Scholars as well as across Rutgers University.  Our co-principal investigator is Courtney McAnuff, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Rutgers University.  We work directly with Aramis Gutierrez, Director, Rutgers Future Scholars as well as the RFS team, including campus leads, program coordinators, program staff, and program supporters. As part of this project, we also engage in research with Rutgers University and school district faculty, administrators and staff.

Project Resources