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(Graphic: Business Wire)

Citing a lack of independent research on “for-profit” education institutions, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education (Pell Institute) conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of DeVry University’s academic and support services for low-income, first-generation college students. The study’s findings, released today at a policy forum in Washington, D.C., show nontraditional students at DeVry University receive high levels of personal and academic support, which similar institutions could look to replicate.

The goal of the study, Promising Practices Supporting Low-Income, First-Generation Students at DeVry University, was to catalog the academic and social support services offered at one of the nation’s largest proprietary universities, and benchmark them against similar programs designed to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. According to The Pell Institute’s previous research in other sectors, effective support services can have a positive impact on low-income, first-generation college students, helping them to persist in their studies and graduate.

“We were very familiar with what successful support programs for low-income, first-generation students looked like at traditional schools,” said Chandra Taylor Smith, Ph.D., vice president of research and director at The Pell Institute, “but since schools like DeVry University do not receive federal TRIO grants, we wanted to learn their supportive practices which seemed to show the most promise for student success. What we discovered was that many strategic academic and social student support services established in the literature as effectively supporting low-income students in other sectors are incorporated in the DeVry University structure.”

The Pell Institute’s research included site visits to three DeVry University Chicago-area campuses, personal interviews with administrators, faculty and staff, and focus groups with students. The Chicago-area campuses were selected because they enroll a high percentage of low-income and underrepresented minority students.

The study highlighted the following three guiding strategies behind the practices at DeVry University as key to their support for these students:
  • Approach support services for students as customer service
  • Provide early, in-depth, on-campus student opportunities
  • Establish and sustain a shared sense of community

The report notes, “These three overarching categories are distinctive because of the way in which the dynamic confluence of business values and higher education practices come together to inform DeVry’s educational culture.”

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