Dougherty Family College seeks to reduce higher-education achievement
gap in Twin Cities
MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only one-third of adults attain a
four-year degree, despite the benefits of increased employment and
income. To help change this, particularly for those from diverse and
economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the University of St. Thomas
Board of Trustees today voted to establish a first-of-its-kind two-year
college in Minnesota on its Minneapolis campus.
Family College, named after lead benefactors Mike and Kathy
Dougherty, is intended to be a first step toward a four-year degree and
will provide intensive, wrap-around education services designed to
accommodate promising students who may not succeed at existing higher
education offerings in the community.
Starting in the fall of 2017, the college will offer students an
associate of arts degree in liberal arts, with courses that meet
Minnesota Transfer Curriculum guidelines, which will allow graduates to
have a seamless transition to public as well as private four-year
institutions in Minnesota. The college plans to admit about 150 students
to its inaugural college class, and St. Thomas is now applying for
approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer the associate of
arts degree. Upon receiving this approval, the college will begin
The Dougherty Family College is designed to help ensure the success of
low-income students who may be the first in their family to attend
college, or those who lack the academic support, academic mentors or
financial means to pursue a four-year degree.
“We are determined to reduce the educational attainment gap in Minnesota
and prepare students to become transformational leaders in our
communities, state and nation,” said Julie Sullivan, president of the
University of St. Thomas. “It is our mission to develop and be morally
responsible leaders, who work to advance the common good, and the
inspiration for the Dougherty Family College came from within our school
and from our generous, community-minded donors.”
The annual tuition will be offset by state and local grants,
scholarships and corporate support, bringing final tuition costs to just
$1,000 a year for the most under-resourced students.
To date, the University of St. Thomas has raised $18 million in private
donations for the new college, including a founding gift from the family
of the college namesakes: Mike and Kathy Dougherty. The college aims to
raise additional funds over the next several years to sustain itself.
Dougherty was orphaned at an early age and became a self-described
sad and angry young man. He was expelled from Creighton University after
one semester and was drafted into the Army during the Cuban Missile
Crisis. That experience helped him turn his life around. St. Thomas
agreed to give him a second chance and he completed his degree there. In
1977, he founded his own financial services firm. In 2003, he received
Alger Association Award in recognition of his success in the face of
adversity. Mike and Kathy are active members of the Twin Cities
community, and Mike has served as a St. Thomas trustee since 2003.
Sullivan added that the plan for the school is modeled on Arrupe College
at Loyola University Chicago, which also offers a two-year degree to a
diverse student body from underserved communities.
“This is intended to be a pathway to, and develop the skills that
students need to attain, a four-year degree,” Sullivan said. “In the
Twin Cities, the median yearly income of adults with a bachelor’s degree
is $22,332 more than that of adults with only a high school diploma.
Many capable Twin Cities high school students lack the academic
experience or social support necessary to initially succeed in a
four-year degree program. The Dougherty Family College is designed to
address those deficits and help motivated students overcome other
barriers to access, such as family income and high school grades.”
The college will follow a holistic and competitive admissions process.
Students will not be required to take the ACT to be admitted, but will
need a 2.5 or higher grade point average and must have a high level of
financial need (e.g., meeting the eligibility requirements for federal
Pell Grants and/or state grants). In addition, students must participate
in a qualifying interview to determine their readiness and motivation.
Classes will be held four days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Structured and intensive mentoring, a directed curriculum, generous
financial aid and small class sizes will help prepare students to
succeed in their first two years of college and prepare them to
matriculate in a four-year program with minimal student debt. St. Thomas
will also connect its two-year college students with paid internships
through collaboration with regional employers. “These internships will
offer valuable, hands-on work experience that will help our students
develop professional and life skills,” said Pat Ryan, Chair of the
University of St. Thomas board of trustees, and an early advocate for
making a connection between the school and the business community.
Students will take a core curriculum of liberal arts classes, which will
meet the academic standards of the University of St. Thomas four-year
program but will be delivered in a different way. Each student will
attend classes with the same group of 25 students throughout the
two-year program. They will take a first-year experience seminar
focusing on study skills, time management, financial and information
literacy, preparatory skills for conducting research and professional
development etiquette. In addition, students will participate in
leadership development advisory groups to hone their critical thinking
and leadership skills.
“A college degree is one of the best ways to beat poverty,” said
Dougherty. “My wife, daughters and I want to give motivated,
hard-working students the opportunity to succeed in college so they can
use their talents and support themselves in the future. One day, I
believe these students will be giving back to our community. But for
now, this is a way for our family to give back to the community that has
been so good to us.”
For more information on the Dougherty Family College, visit www.stthomas.edu/dfc.