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Commitment to Excellence: Juniata Gets $100,000 Wal-Mart College Success Award

(Posted July 16, 2008)

The Wal-Mart Foundation donated $100,000 to the college aimed at offering financial support for first-generation college students for the innovative inbound Retreats program. Juniata offers more than a dozen Inbound Retreats, including several outdoor-oriented programs.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College has been selected as one of 20 colleges by the Council of Independent Colleges to receive the Wal-Mart College Success Award -- a $100,000 grant to help build on Juniata's demonstrated successes in enrolling, retaining, and graduating first-generation college students.

Juniata, the only higher education institution in Pennsylvania to receive the award, was selected through a highly competitive application process, which is intended to help institutions that are already deeply committed to the education of first-generation students.

"We take seriously our responsibility to deliver a superb education to every student regardless of family background or income. For example, nearly 40 percent of our graduates have been the first in their families to complete a college education," says Thomas R. Kepple, Juniata president. "I'm proud to be part of a group of hard-working and creative colleges recognized for their commitment to first-generation and lower-income college students. I'm especially thankful for the commitment Wal-Mart has made to help us continue this important work."

Juniata will use the award over the next two years to increase financial aid to allow first-generation students to attend Juniata's innovative Inbound Retreats program, a weeklong pre-orientation program for incoming freshmen designed to help students become accustomed to campus life and meet students with similar interests. Students demonstrating financial need will receive free admission to the program as Next Generation Scholars. They also will receive small grants to cover any lost wages they would have earned during that week if they were employed during the summer. In addition, the grant includes awards to first-generation students to cover textbook and laboratory expenses during their first semester at Juniata.

The Inbound Retreats program is in its third year and offers 16 different retreats focused on such interest areas as fine arts, outdoors, community service, sports, environmental science, health and wellness and dance.

"We take seriously our responsibility to deliver a superb education to every student regardless of family background or income. For example, nearly 40 percent of our graduates have been the first in their families to complete a college education."
Thomas R. Kepple, Juniata president.

"We're very proud our company is reaching out to colleges that educate first-generation students," says Don Straub, store manager of the Wal-Mart in Smithfield Township, outside Huntingdon. "This award is right in line with Wal-Mart's policy to make education affordable. That our local college is so successful at helping low-income and first-generation students is something to be very proud of."

"The Council of Independent Colleges was delighted that 217 institutions, more than a third of its membership, applied for the grants. More importantly, we were amazed at the outstanding quality of their programs, truly a testament to the efforts of private colleges to ensure the success of first-generation students," said CIC President Richard Ekman in announcing the awards. "These awards will help strengthen those programs and also provide recognition that their work is important."

"Wal-Mart is proud to support programs that enable first generation students to succeed in college," said Margaret McKenna, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation. "Wal-Mart's partnership with CIC identifies institutions committed to the success of first generation students and will help identify and share effective programs."

The 19 additional winners are: Adrian College (Mich.), Bay Path College (Mass.), Bellarmine University (Ky.), California Lutheran University, Carroll University (Wis.), College of Idaho, College of Mount Saint Vincent (N.Y.), College of Saint Benedict (Minn.), College of St. Scholastica (Minn.), Florida Memorial University, Illinois College, Kalamazoo College (Mich.), Lesley University (Mass.), Manchester College (Ind.), North Central College (Ill.), Ripon College (Wis.), St. Edward's University (Texas), Wartburg College (Iowa), and Wiley College (Texas).

Nationwide, at all colleges and universities, only 24 percent of first-generation students succeed in earning a bachelor's degree compared with 68 percent of students whose parents received a bachelor's degree. The colleges that have been selected for the Wal-Mart College Success Awards have developed programs that result in higher percentages of graduates among their first-generation college students than the national average, and many graduate first-generation students at the same rate as all other students.

The Wal-Mart College Success Awards program is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges and made possible by a generous grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the Wal-Mart Foundation support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. Through its philanthropic programs and partnerships, the Wal-Mart Foundation supports initiatives focused on enhancing opportunities in education, job skills training, sustainability and health. In 2007, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and the Wal-Mart Foundation gave $296 million to communities across the United States.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) is an association of more than 580 independent, liberal arts colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that work together to strengthen college and university leadership, sustain high-quality education, and enhance private higher education's contributions to society.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.