History of University NOW
The University NOW program at PLNU began in 1997 with the aim of empowering underprivileged high school students with the vision and skills to attend university. At the start of the program, students enrolled in a semester long Cell Biology course that was offered over a one year period in order to reinforce necessary concepts and skills, and more importantly, to give these students significant exposure to a college environment. From 1997 – 2000, we served 72 students, and 97% of them went on to college or university.
In 2001, we initiated a partnership with Lincoln Senior High, an inner city school ranked in the lowest 10% of schools in the state. At that time, we also decided to expand the program to 2 years, in order to offer an interdisciplinary course in Writing and Cell Biology. This decision was based on the fact that the ability to write well is crucial for success in college. All nine of the Lincoln HS students that participated in the two year University NOW program attended college.
In 2003 Lincoln High closed its doors in order to rebuild the school, and after a year off to restructure our program, University NOW began partnering with Point Loma High School and Madison High School. One year later, in 2005, we added Sweetwater High School. These schools were chosen because they have significant numbers of minority (57-97%) and socioeconomically disadvantaged (44-61%) students (www.ed-data.k12.ca.us). The counselors at the high schools recruit the students, who then submit an application and visit PLNU for a sample class before they are accepted.
In the restructuring of the program during ‘03-04, we decided to cut the length of the program back to one year so that we may serve more students in the community, and also more easily recruit students into the program. The current year-long course integrating writing and biology has proven to be quite successful. We have served over 130 students since 2004, and 56 of them have already graduated from high school. In addition to the college-entrance rates of the students from our 2004 and 2005 cohorts (84%), qualitative evidence suggests that the program is meeting its primary goals, which are for these youth to envision themselves as college students and for them to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in college (see link titled Comments from Students).