Occidental Is National Leader in College Access
Occidental College enrolls more Pell Grant recipients - students from low- and moderate income families - than almost all other top-ranked liberal arts colleges, according to 2008-09 school year data compiled by U.S. News & World Report.
The 19 percent of Occidental students who are Pell recipients is matched only by Mt. Holyoke College and surpassed only by Smith College, where 25 percent of students receive Pell grants. In this year's first-year class at Occidental, some 26 percent of students are Pell Grant recipients.
While Occidental's commitment to college access is a long-standing one - its federally funded Upward Bound program for low-income high school students was launched in 1966 - its success comes despite an endowment that is only a fraction of the size of many of its peers, says Vince Cuseo, vice president for admission and financial aid.
"As our dean, the economist Jorge Gonzalez, says, we outperform our assets," said Cuseo. "We take college access very seriously, and are proud of our ability to recruit talented students, regardless of their personal circumstances, and provide them with the financial resources they need to earn a college degree."
As of June 30, Occidental's endowment was roughly $300 million. In contrast, the average endowment of the top 10 liberal arts colleges as ranked by U.S. News is more than $900 million. (Smith's endowment exceeds $1 billion; Mt. Holyoke's approaches $500 million.)
Occidental's commitment to socio-economic diversity is also reflected in the large numbers of students who are the first in their families to attend college. Nineteen percent of the Class of 2014 are first-generation students.
The story of one such student gave Occidental President Jonathan Veitch the title of his October 2009 inaugural address, "Magdalena's Lamp: Occidental and the Power of a Liberal Arts Education.. One of 11 children who went to college against her father's wishes, Magdalena Arenas '92 arrived for her first year at college with nothing but a desk lamp. Today, Arenas is a doctor at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena - and Veitch's personal physician.
"I can't think of a more powerful reminder of the importance of our mission than her inspiring example," Veitch said.