Hilbert Opportunity Scholarship Program

The Hilbert Opportunity Scholars Program supports students who are first in their families to attend college. Funding will be utilized to support the creation and launch of this program in 2014. All dollars raised go directly to providing scholarship assistance to all eligible students.

For the last 56 years Hilbert College has established a unique niche serving low to middle income students who often require customized support systems to successfully complete their college degree. Of our current students, 40% are first generation college students. Hilbert educates more low income students than any other WNY public and private college; 50% of Hilbert’s students receive Pell Grants, serving almost twice the percentage of economically disadvantaged students as our peer group colleges. According to national student risk criteria, more than 90% of Hilbert’s students are considered academically “at risk.” In addition to the risks just mentioned, adult students exhibit additional barriers such as working more than 20 hours a week or having parental responsibilities. The college contributes more than $2 million of our total budget to student financial aid while continuing to offer the lowest tuition compared to its competitors.
What is the Hilbert Opportunity Scholars Program (HOSP)?
The HOSP supports low-income students who are first in their families to attend college. Hilbert is committed to financially supporting academically talented students who might not otherwise attend college because of financial barriers.
What is First-Generation?
The term first-generation refers to students who are the first in their families to attend college. More specifically, it means that a student's parents have not earned a bachelor’s degree. Students whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree in another country are not first-generation by this definition and thus ineligible for the Hilbert Opportunity Scholarship. Students who have siblings in college but whose parents did not earn a bachelor's degree are considered first-generation.
Why was the program initiated?
National studies have shown that students from low socio-economic backgrounds can be deterred from enrolling in a four-year college or university because of fear of debt and concerns that working while in school could hamper their chances for academic success. Many of these students opt instead to enroll in community colleges or choose not to attend college at all. Hilbert recognized this problem in Western New York and decided to develop a program specifically designed to help these students.
Who supports the Program?
The HOSP receives support from President Cynthia Zane and the Hilbert College Board of Trustees, as well as campus administrators, faculty, alumni, and students. Financially, the program is supported by the College and our many charitable donors.
Statement of Need
Hilbert believes that four key trends will shape the landscape of higher education in Western New York in the near future, and offer further evidence about the need for supporting and engaging our student population:
1)      Recent job projections forecast that by 2018, the U.S. economy will create 47 million job opportunities. $14 million of these will be new jobs while 33 million will be created by retiring baby boomers. Two-thirds (64%) of all job openings will require at least some postsecondary education or training (Carnevale, 2010). Given the demographic downward trend in first-generation graduates, it is highly unlikely that our first-generation students with financial hardships will be successful in receiving a diploma without financial assistance.
2)      It is well documented that a college degree is necessary to compete in the current job market. Our knowledge-based economy offers greater earning potential for those with a college or advanced degree. Those without a college education are left to fill low-skilled, entry level jobs that rarely pay wages high enough to support a middle-class lifestyle. Education is the primary means of economic mobility for low-to-moderate income individuals.
3)      Employers will be looking to hire students who come from a strong liberal education environment and have developed key learning outcomes. A report just published in April 2013 entitled, It Takes More Than a Major, from Hart Research Associates on behalf of Association of American Colleges and Universities, surveyed employers on the type of learning they believe college students should possess in today’s economy. Of those respondents, 95% of employers were looking for innovation in its workforce, and over 75% would like colleges to place, “more emphasis on developing key learning outcomes including critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge to real world settings.”
According to a study in The Journal of Higher Education, first-generation students had less basic knowledge about post-secondary education in regards to the application process and cost, and many of them are not prepared to succeed in college. First-generation students need to take hold of their education and their future by committing to making a change.  Of the 1.3 million first-time freshmen who took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) last year, 28% were first-generation college students, according a study in Research in Higher Education. It is clear that students whose parents did not obtain a bachelor’s degree are not prepared or expected to succeed. The Pell Institute’s study on first-generation, low-income students approaches a problem that is two-fold. People who are first-generation students are likely to be considered low-income, and vice-versa.
More than 15 million students are enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Of that 15 million, nearly 30% (4.5 million) are low-income, first-generation students, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. Only 11% of the 4.5 million are actually expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 55% of non-first-generation students. Experts expect the number of low-income, first-generation students to grow, but they also expect more to dropout. Basically, the odds are against you if you’re a first-generation college student. With the first-generation student population growing, institutions need to know the challenges these students face and the students need to know how to approach the hurdles ahead. Here are some additional quick facts:
First-generation students are likely to:
- Work part-time or full-time while enrolled
- Have more financial responsibilities
- Be older than the traditional student
- Dropout after their first year — four times more likely than their more advantaged peers
- Make big decisions without help or guidance
First-generation students are less likely to:
- Be academically prepared
- Receive financial support from their family
- Be engaged and involved on campus
- Have degree expectations and plans
- To enroll in a graduate or professional program post-undergraduate
The Hilbert Opportunity Scholars Program will open doors to disadvantaged students and provide them with knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to effectively succeed at various levels in today's economy. This program takes a tremendous amount of stress and hardship off of our students to allow them to be as focused and successful as they can be. Hilbert College is supporting its first-generation financially disadvantaged students during these crucial economic times when higher education is being called upon more than ever to prepare our students for the world of work.
For more information, please contact Gregg Fort, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at gfort@hilbert.edu or at (716) 649-7900.