Appendix L





In November 2014, the Office of Undergraduate Education offered micro-scholarships to high school students in select schools. The program provides opportunities for students to earn scholarship dollars toward their college education by successfully completing specific academic and co-curricular requirements set by the University.

The Pennsylvania State University’s Strategic Plan (2016–2020) includes “enabling access” as one of its six foundations. This foundation emphasizes the priority the University is placing on helping students to pursue and complete a Penn State education. The micro-scholarship program is a creative way to address some of the barriers students face as they seek access to the university. Students have the potential to earn up to $4,000 per year for four years ($16,000 total) if they are offered admission to Penn State. This scholarship is added to other awards, which helps close the gap, but does not exceed the cost of attendance.


Micro-scholarship programs attach financial incentives to academic and co-curricular accomplishments that lead to student achievement in high school. They increase student awareness of financial aid and reinforce knowledge, skills, and practices that should lead to success in college. These accomplishments can include earning an “A” in a class, increasing high school GPA, participating in a club or student organization, or community service, among others. began as a start-up in 2012. It won an annual joint business plan competition hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and the Milken Family Foundation in 2013. It was then launched nationally. The program was considered to be revolutionary as it made financial aid processes more transparent, reinforced positive behaviors and practices that boost student performance in high school, and connected universities and prospective students in new ways (Zimmer, 2014).

Penn State History

During the first year of the program (2014-2015), Penn State partnered with five high schools in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia area to make scholarships available to students.  These schools included: Academy Park, Girls High School, High School of the Future, Norristown, and Northeast.

The 2015-2016 class of students included 77 students with offers of admission who earned scholarships. The students were offered admission to one of five Penn State campuses based on their applications including: Abington, Berks, Brandywine, Schuylkill, and University Park.

Fifty-five of these students accepted offers to Penn State, and completed courses at Abington, Berks, Brandywine and University Park. They pursued majors in Business, Communications, Education, Engineering, HHD, IST, Liberal Arts, Math, Nursing and Science. More than one-third of the students (25 students) enrolled in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. At the end of their first year of study, the average GPA of these students was 3.04.

Of these 55 students, 26 are low income, 42 are Pell eligible, and 37 are first generation. The students are diverse: 24 percent are African American, 40 percent were Asian American, 20 percent were Caucasian, and 13 percent were Hispanic/Latino. The remaining students were American Indian/Alaskan American or did not report.

The 2015-2016 cohort earned a total of $112,642 scholarship support, averaging $1,053 per student each semester.

In 2015-2016, Penn State expanded access to six rural schools in the Bedford, Somerset, Cambria, and Blair Counties (Intermediate Unit 8). These schools include: Claysburg-Kimmel, Ferndale, Meyersdale, North Star, Rockwood, Salisbury-Elk Lick

The second cohort of Penn State students (2016-17) was yielded from 214 students who “followed” Penn State on during their senior year of high school. Of these, 63 percent (135 students) applied to Penn State, and 87 percent of the applicants (121 students) were offered admission. These 121 students are diverse: 69 are first generation, and 71 are on free or reduced lunch programs. In addition, 33 percent are Asian or Asian American, 18 percent are African American, 12 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 17 percent are White, and the remaining students identify as multi-racial or other. Fifty-nine of these students accepted offers of admission to the University.

The 2016-2017 cohort earned a projected total of $125,094 in scholarship support, an average annual projected award of $1,060 per student each semester. The total projected 2016-2017 costs for all students in 2016-2017 is $236,936.

In 2016-2017, will be available to three additional Philadelphia schools (West Philadelphia, Esperanza, Upper Darby), eight schools in the Pittsburgh area (McKeesport, West Mifflin, Steele Valley, South Allegheny, Perry, Brashear, Carrick, Allderdice), and two additional schools in rural Pennsylvania (Montrose and Wallenpaupack).

Currently, the Office of Undergraduate Education is working to develop wrap-around programming for the high school students who participate in This programming will focus on academic and co-curricular needs related to the regions the program is offered in, and it will recognize differences in rural and urban community orientation to higher education. Academic programming may provide support in key areas such as mathematics, writing, study skills, and time management. Co-curricular programming will focus on financial literacy and parent education.

The Division of Undergraduate Students has established a plan for a mentoring program to develop a community for students who attend Penn State.

Assessment of the program is three-pronged and includes analysis of recruitment, retention, and student success data:

  1. Recruitment data will help realize higher yield rates from participating schools and lower gaps in costs of attendance for students. Higher yield rates from these schools will increase diversity of the Penn State student population, including the number of first generation, Pell eligible, and racial and ethnically diverse students.
  2. Retention data will focus on student academic performance. This includes information choices of major (including entrance to major success rates for controlled majors), course grades, overall GPA, and credits earned per year.
  3. Student success data will include data on co-curricular participation, time to degree, and post-graduation plans.

Data from this three-pronged approach will be used to inform the scholarship criteria, programming for high school students, and other supports for students at Penn State.

Conclusion is an innovative way to address issues related to access, affordability, student retention and success. It has benefits to both students and the University. Students benefit as their high school experiences become focused in areas that foster the knowledge, skills, and habits that should lead to success at a university. They also will benefit from community support once they enter Penn State.

Penn State will benefit as a more diverse student body enters the University better prepared for academic success and student engagement. These students will have lowered costs in attendance, a sense of community, strong academic experiences, and higher graduation rates.


  • Charles Abdalla
  • Steven Andelin
  • Martha Aynardi
  • Daniel Beaver
  • Clark Brigger
  • Wei-Fan Chen
  • Madhuri Desai
  • Maura Ellsworth
  • Galen Grimes
  • Anna Griswold
  • Michel M. Haigh, Chair
  • Harold Hayford, Vice Chair
  • Robert Kubat
  • George Samuel
  • Douglas Wolfe

*Prepared by the Office of Undergraduate Education