As the higher education community reflects on milestone anniversaries of progress in the path toward equity and access in higher education–fifty years since the founding of Pell Grants and ten years since the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program–Loyola University Chicago reflects on its own institutional commitment to leadership and innovation in these areas.
In the United States today, nearly 7 million students rely on Pell Grants to help them access and afford higher education. The number of Pell-eligible students enrolled at Loyola is among the highest among the member institutions that comprise the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). On average, 22 percent of Loyola undergraduates are eligible for Pell Grants. Some 3,000 students at the University have received a Pell Grant–with $13.5 million awarded to Loyola students in total.
With the rising cost of tuition and other college expenses, the buying power of these grants has sharply declined over the last few decades, which has affected college opportunities and outcomes for the nation’s lower income students. Last year, Loyola students and Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM joined the #DoublePell national campaign led by the Double Pell Alliance, a coalition of higher education associations, organizations, and advocacy groups committed to doubling the maximum Pell Grant in honor of its 50th anniversary.
A significant difference maker in the lives of students, Catharina Baeten ’24 noted, “Receiving the Pell Grant has enabled me to find a silver lining in my education, allowing me the chance to study and pursue my dreams with less of a financial weight on my shoulders and the shoulders of my family.”
Pell Grants hold even greater meaning at Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, a two-year college for motivated students with limited financial resources launched in 2015, where 88% of students are Pell-eligible. Arrupe College continues the Jesuit tradition of offering a rigorous liberal arts education to a diverse population, many of whom are the first in their family to pursue higher education. Using an innovative model that ensures affordability while providing care for the whole person—intellectually, morally and spiritually—Arrupe prepares its graduates to enter a Bachelor’s degree program or move into meaningful employment.
“Too often, a key barrier to achieving a college degree has nothing to do with academics, but rather external forces,” said Rev. Tom Neitzke, S.J., Ed.D., Dean of Arrupe College. “We believe in making education affordable, accessible, and achievable for those historically underrepresented, including Pell Grant recipients and DACA students.”
Loyola’s leadership in serving students on the margins also extends to recipients of DACA, the Obama Administration-era policy designed to safeguard children brought into the country unlawfully by providing them with basic rights to work permits and protection from deportation. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Since its inception in 2012, DACA has allowed over 800,000 young people to remain with their families in the only country many of them have ever known and continue to contribute to their communities in the United States.”
In 2013, shortly after DACA’s creation, Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine made history as the first medical school in the United States to openly welcome applications from DACA recipients. Approximately fifty DACA recipients have matriculated at Stritch and more than thirty have graduated and pursued residencies and fellowships. Many now practice as board-certified physicians.
In a recent television interview, fourth-year medical student and DACA recipient Jacky Solis ’23 said that uncertainty around the DACA program is “a dark cloud that follows [recipients].” Solis lent her support to efforts led by U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to push for a renewal of DACA and path toward citizenship in Congress. “A lot of our DACA brothers and sisters are now physicians or lawyers,” she said. “A lot of them are teachers educating our next generation.”
In addition to the University’s support of Pell Grants and the DACA program, Loyola is striving to directly address and remove systemic barriers to student success and opportunity. In June, the University announced a $100 million gift–the largest individual gift in Loyola’s history–from John and Kathy Schreiber to fund full scholarships, room and board, and an array of comprehensive support services for aspiring first-generation, ethnically and racially diverse students who are historically underrepresented in higher education.
The Schreibers have long supported important causes that advance equity and justice at Loyola, including a 2017 investment of $6 million in scholarships for students and graduates of Arrupe College, especially those who are ineligible for federal and state aid because of immigration status. Recently, they funded an unprecedented two-year fellowship at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) with a preference for a Loyola School of Law graduate. John and Kathy Schreiber’s $100 million gift launched a broader $500 million effort to provide talented and underserved students with the resources they need to enter college; achieve academic, social, and personal success; and use their talents and education to create better outcomes, a brighter future, and, ultimately, a better world.
Institutional efforts like this, in addition to programs like the Pell Grant and DACA, help provide much-needed access to higher education for students on the margins. A college degree has been and continues to be a transformational pathway for students, families and communities. The average difference in lifetime earnings between college graduates and those with a high school diploma is approximately $1 million. Not only do individuals with college degrees earn significantly more and build generational wealth, but research also reveals other meaningful and longer-term societal benefits. College graduates are typically more engaged in civic and community affairs, committed to helping others through volunteerism and mentoring, and better equipped to sustain positive health outcomes over the course of their lives.
Phil Hale, Loyola’s vice president for government affairs, reflected on the importance of DACA and Pell Grants in expanding educational access and opportunity, “The ability to advocate institutionally for DACA, Pell Grants, and other government programs that positively impact our students is a great honor and privilege. At Loyola, however, our very best advocacy is when we are able to engage our students directly and give them the opportunity to tell their own personal stories, highlighting the critical impact of these programs. We also hope that through their engagement in the public square, Loyola students learn that supporting the common good and learning how to reconcile opposing points of view are important values, and a meaningful part of their Jesuit education.”
By Matthew McDermott, Associate Director of External Communications, Loyola University Chicago