Date February 16, 2023
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Brown to provide full Pre-College scholarships to all admitted Providence public school students

As part of the University’s ongoing commitment to its home city, Brown is providing Providence public school students full financial support to a robust summer experience to explore academic pathways and college life.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As part of its deepening commitment to supporting educational opportunities for students in its home city, Brown University is providing full scholarships to every Providence Public School District student who is admitted to the University’s summer Pre-College Programs. The new scholarships for all admitted PPSD students eliminate all consideration of a family’s financial circumstances.

The new scholarships mark the most recent measure of support in a six-year partnership between the Pre-College Programs and the school district, according to Joi-Danelle Whitehead, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and access for Pre-College. Whitehead said the full scholarships will remove financial barriers and increase the number of PPSD students who are able to attend Brown pre-college programs.

Brown’s Pre-College Programs, which offer more than 300 non-credit, first-year college-level courses for thousands of high schoolers and rising ninth graders from across the world each year, provide both a rigorous academic experience and robust outside-of-the-classroom exploration. This includes residence hall living and a taste of the independence and responsibility needed to fulfill commitments in and out of class. An array of Pre-College programs, ranging from one to five weeks, offer courses such as “Ancient DNA: Uncovering the Secrets of Our Species,” “Effective Communication: Presenting to the Public” and “Medical Diagnostics: Observation, Interpretation and the Art of Being a Better M.D.

Since the partnership launched in 2016, the number of PPSD students attending Brown’s Pre-College Programs has nearly tripled, with the University providing significant financial support for many. However, the financial aid application was still a deterrent to some prospective attendees, said Gina Silvia, director of school counseling for PPSD.

“By making the application process easier, it opens up the doors for more students to apply and get exposed to different opportunities,” Silvia said, “so that they can explore options and find their path to success.”

Whitehead and Adrienne Marcus, dean of Brown’s Division of Pre-College and Undergraduate Programs, said the shift to the full scholarship model exemplifies Brown’s larger commitment to making a meaningful, positive impact in local schools through education, research and community engagement initiatives, as well as financial support for district priorities.

“This is one of a number of places where the institution is really engaging in new, deeper and more intentional ways with Providence students, families and the district,” Marcus said. “The richness of the Pre-College experience at Brown is amplified by the presence of Providence students. They’re intellectually curious, and their experiences as local residents bring much to any Pre-College experience. Everyone benefits.”

More than 200 PPSD students have enrolled in Brown’s Pre-College Programs since the partnership began in 2016, fueled by a range of outreach and support measures that, until now, have included need-based scholarships, according to Whitehead. Now, every admitted PPSD student will receive a full scholarship, regardless of family finances.

“There can be an assumption that just because a scholarship exists that students are going apply,” Whitehead said. “But uncertainty about whether they would qualify for a need-based scholarship was a barrier.”

Jael Lopes, director of strategic community partnerships for the district, said the reality is that many students who began the Pre-College application stopped at the financial aid portion.

“Some students don’t have that financial information to share, or it’s a barrier for families who don’t make a lot of money or feel safe providing their records,” Lopes said. “We also think about undocumented families not having those documents to present or share. All the data says there is financial need for most students, so we don’t need to burden our families by asking them to prove their financial need over and over again.”

Brown and its PPSD partners are hopeful that the new scholarship model will eliminate perceived barriers and make clear that Providence public school students can thrive in the Pre-College Programs.

“I think we’ll start to see an increase in participation from our families,” Lopes said. “And I think our families will also feel that they’re sending their child to a program that sees them, that understands their barriers and that’s willing to work with them to overcome those barriers.”

Supporting PPSD students

The scholarships build on the University’s larger commitment to strengthening educational outcomes for PPSD students. Hundreds of Brown students, faculty and staff engage with PPSD schools through teaching, tutoring, after-school enrichment and more, and the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence — a permanent endowment established with $10 million that provides continual financial support for initiatives that improve teaching and learning at city schools. In Fall 2022, an innovative new hands-on learning space opened at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, built with financial support and partnership from Brown.

The full Pre-College scholarships will cover courses, housing, meals and any fees tied to the Pre-College Programs, with the exception of travel costs to and from programs that take place in locations away from the Brown campus, according to Whitehead. While the scholarships are immediately available for Summer 2023 programs, the expectation is that the financial support will continue well into the future.

In 2022, Pre-College enrolled nearly 7,000 students, representing all 50 states and territories, and more than 70 countries. The PPSD cohort of 38 students included 89% from historically underrepresented groups, 95% percent who were students of color, and 42% who will be first-generation college students.

“The Pre-College Programs benefit all of our students, especially first-generation students,” Silvia said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to meet other students from across the country and across the world, build up their confidence and get exposure to the college and career mindset.”

To support PPSD students during their Pre-College experience, Brown provides a dedicated welcome session, one-on-one support, programming that connects students from low-income, first-generation or historically underrepresented backgrounds to Brown faculty and staff, and more.

Whitehead, who was born in Providence and is the daughter of a retired PPSD schoolteacher, praised Silvia, Lopes and the city’s middle school and high school counselors for dedicating their time and support to recruiting students and increasing access and awareness of opportunities at Brown Pre-College.

“There is a lot of work that goes into building trust and helping students understand why programs might benefit them and what they might get out of it,” Whitehead said.

Lopes said she hopes the scholarships inspire more innovative ideas that minimize barriers for Providence public school students to broaden participation in opportunities like Pre-College.

“This is an example of identifying a need, identifying a barrier and presenting a solution — and Joi was willing to really advocate for this process to change,” Lopes said. “I felt heard by Joi and by Brown.”