Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science announced the creation of the Thompson-Muñoz Scholars, a new honors designation for talented undergraduates from schools and communities surrounding the University. The Scholars receive need-based scholarships, as well as access to special events and opportunities to meet local leaders and accomplished Columbia alumni. Up to 40 students from West Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx will receive this honor each year.
“Columbia is defined by the city we call home and by our historic commitment to providing educational opportunity to a remarkable diversity of young people, regardless of their family’s income,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “We reach out to attract talented students all across the nation who are the first member of their family to attend college, but nowhere more so than our own New York community. We are proud to add the Thompson-Muñoz Scholars to this effort that is so central to our mission.”
The Thompson- Muñoz Scholars are named in recognition of two notable Columbia alumni who were born and raised in Harlem. Thompson graduated from Columbia College in 1954 before serving as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserves and graduating from Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine, where he currently works as an assistant clinical professor and is an alumni leader. Muñoz, who graduated from Columbia College in 1957 and earned a master’s degree in economics from the University, went on to lead a distinguished career in finance before retiring as executive vice president for credit and risk management for Dime Bancorp and the Dime Savings Bank of New York. A former president of the Columbia College Alumni Association and a member of the Columbia College’s Board of Visitors, he is one of the College’s most visible alumni.
“Thompson and Muñoz are examples of the remarkable students who have come to Columbia from our surrounding neighborhood, bringing unique backgrounds and experiences to share with their classmates,” said James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and vice president for Undergraduate Education. “Our goal with this program, as with financial aid in general, is to admit students based on their ability to contribute to and benefit from our community, not on their ability to pay for the experience, so our students can learn as much from one another as they do from their faculty members.”
“We are very pleased to establish the Thompson-Muñoz Scholars program to allow outstanding students from the local community to pursue their education here, said Mary C. Boyce, dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. “The depth and breadth of talent and the diverse perspectives that our students bring to the classroom and to campus life more generally enrich and, indeed, define the Columbia experience.”
This program, which supports students with demonstrated financial need, is one of many initiatives that Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science have taken in recent years to provide access and affordability to first-generation and low-income students. Columbia utilizes a need-blind admissions process for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, meeting 100 percent of demonstrated need for all students admitted as first years for all four years of college. In recent years Columbia eliminated parent contributions from families earning less than $60,000 per year and reduced the parent contribution for families making between $60,000 and $100,000 per year, as well as replacing loans with additional grant funds in all financial aid packages. Economically and educationally disadvantaged students with strong potential also receive special consideration for Columbia’s Opportunity programs, which offer students an extra year of financial aid eligibility, enhanced advising and tutoring, as well as access to a summer bridge program.
Columbia College and Columbia Engineering have increased funding for low-income admitted students to travel to campus, so they can see first-hand the opportunities that Columbia can provide. Staff from Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid have also been conducting financial aid workshops for students and family members in neighborhoods surrounding campus. The undergraduate schools conduct extensive outreach, including visits by admissions officers to schools with high proportions of low-income and first-generation students, targeted communications about financial aid, including a new affordability postcard campaign, as well as growing partnerships with community-based organizations.
One of Columbia’s most successful partnerships in the community is with The Double Discover Center (DDC) at Columbia College, which works with low-income and first generation college bound Manhattan area youth to ensure high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, Founded in 1965 as Project Double Discover, the program was the creation of Columbia undergraduates moved by the disparities between their Ivy League institution and the Harlem community.
“Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science are committed to building a student body that represents diversity in all realms, including race, ethnicity, religion, sexual-orientation, academic interest, extra-curricular passion, and geographic background -- and socio-economic diversity is part of that,” said Jessica Marinaccio, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid. “Affordability and access are major themes in our outreach to prospective and admitted students, and we send numerous messages about our financial aid, as well as communications geared towards first-generation college students.”
About 50 percent of Columbia College and Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science students are on financial aid, 17 percent of Columbia College and Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science students in the Class of 2018 received Pell Grants and 16 percent of Columbia College and Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science students in the Class of 2018 are the first in their family to attend college. The average financial aid package for students is more than $42,000.