This report describes an IERC study, led by Executive Director Janet Holt and commissioned by St. Louis Graduates, a collaborative network whose mission is to increase degree completion for low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color from St. Louis. The report addresses two key questions: 1) which institutions are doing the best in supporting low-income, first-generation students and students of color through college completion with low debt? and 2) what strategies are these institutions using to facilitate these results?
Starting with a list of 20 four-year institutions in Missouri and Illinois where St. Louis students most often attend college, a Success metric was developed to determine which institutions were best supporting underrepresented students. From this study, a group of five institutions rose to the top. In the second phase of this project, we interviewed administrators in the areas of academic and student affairs, enrollment management, and financial aid as well as a group of students, from each of these five institutions to find the key ingredients of their “secret sauce” in supporting underrepresented students to graduation with less debt.