Lansing Promise and Olivet College One Year Later

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One year since announcing its partnership with the Lansing Promise, Olivet College has forged a place in the Lansing School District as the college of choice for students who want an immersive, residential private college experience – all while graduating in four years with minimal debt.

Located just 30 miles south of Lansing, Olivet College announced in May 2016 that it would be the first private school to join the Lansing Promise alongside Lansing Community College and Michigan State University. Today, it remains the only private college to partner with the Lansing Promise, and nearly 20 students are taking advantage of the opportunity, and that number is on the rise.

Engaging Residential Experience

“Anyone familiar with Olivet College’s unique history and mission knows that we are committed to providing all students, no matter their background or socioeconomic circumstances, with the opportunity to pursue a higher education,” said Tim Johnston, vice president for admissions and marketing. “As a Lansing Promise institution, we are able to extend that opportunity even further to many deserving students from the Lansing School District.”

Qualified students receive nearly $3,300 from the Lansing Promise Foundation each year, for the first two years of their education at Olivet. Adding to the impact of the partnership, the college agreed to provide an additional $14,000 Olivet College Lansing Promise Grant each academic year to eligible students who are full-time and living on campus. Olivet College Lansing Promise Scholars are also eligible for additional state and federal aid.

What the amount of financial assistance ultimately equates to is the opportunity for students to have a deeply engaging, residential college experience for less than the cost of tuition, room and board at Michigan State University.

For some Lansing graduates, many of whom are first-generation college students, the chance to attend a smaller, 4-year college could mean all the difference between a successful experience and failure to complete a degree.

A Place to Call Home

“College is not a one-size-fits all experience; what suits one student may not be the right fit for another. Here at Olivet College, with our small class sizes and one-on-one attention from professors, we are able to bridge the gap between community college and the often overwhelming feeling of attending a large university,” Johnston explained.

With 1,040 students, Olivet College’s undergraduate population is significantly smaller than that of LCC or MSU. That’s one reason Susana Gonzalez-Hernandez, an Everett High School graduate, chose to apply her Lansing Promise dollars toward an Olivet College education. “The moment I stepped onto the campus I felt like I was at home,” she said. “I enjoy the small class sizes. I feel like I can ask the professors questions about the parts of the lectures that I don’t get. I would not have been able to do that in a classroom of 100-plus students.”

Gonzalez-Hernandez, who studies criminal justice and hopes to be a Lansing police officer one day, is not alone in calling Olivet College home. Known for being one of the most diverse, inclusive campuses in the state, Johnston often says that, unlike many universities, Olivet defines itself by “who it includes, not who it excludes.”

Its founding mission of providing an education to all, regardless of race, gender, religion or financial means still rings true today, and is upheld by the college’s efforts to provide opportunities to those who may not otherwise have a chance at a post-secondary education. Its partnership with the Lansing Promise is one such opportunity.

Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul, herself an Olivet College alumna, says the college is “just the right size and the perfect distance” for Lansing Promise scholars. “The learning environment at Olivet is probably the biggest benefit, because classes are taught by the expert – the professor – which gets students closer to the learning,” she said.

A Diverse and Supportive Community

Another advantage to Olivet’s inclusive environment, Caamal Canul added, is that students can participate and lead in any number of activities, rather than competing for those opportunities. “The many activities available at Olivet, either with athletics, student government, service learning or the arts, gives everyone the chance to explore their strengths,” she said. “You’re not competing with 100 other students for one spot on the team, in the play or on the board.”

From 2016 to 2017, the number of Lansing Promise-eligible students who applied to Olivet College increased from 39 to 77 – a nearly 100 percent increase. “We’re seeing a significant rise in the number of Lansing Promise scholars who are curious about Olivet, and taking the steps to visit and apply,” said Lisa Lehman, the college’s assistant vice president of admissions. “When students see the many academic, athletics, extracurricular and leadership opportunities available, they come to realize Olivet College is a perfect choice. In addition, with a diverse student body, they understand that the Olivet College community is welcoming to all.”

With a focus on providing outstanding academics, a friendly and supportive community, and opportunities for involvement in athletics, clubs and community service, Olivet students are promised a tremendous value for their investment. The college offers a traditional liberal arts curriculum in combination with professional tracks, such as insurance and risk management, natural and physical science, business, criminal justice and more.

Most importantly, Johnston says, Olivet College believes in Lansing Promise scholars and stands by the city of Lansing in supporting them. “The college’s partnership with the Lansing Promise means more deserving students will have the chance at an affordable, individualized college experience,” he said. “In turn, these students will graduate more academically prepared for corporate jobs, and graduate or professional school. When they’re ready to start their careers, many will put that talent and drive right back into Lansing.”

The Lansing Promise is available to eligible high school graduates within the Lansing School District boundaries. It offers assistance for up to 65 credits at LCC or the equivalent dollar amount toward tuition and fees at MSU or Olivet College. To learn more about the Olivet College Lansing Promise Grant, contact Lauren Kirkham, admissions representative, at 269.749.7226 or lkirkham@olivetcollege.edu.


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