Understanding what students need to succeed

Craig Elkins witnesses the determination of UMassD students

Craig Elkins
Craig Elkins, director of College Now/START, assists a student

Ask Craig Elkins what he loves about his job, and he immediately speaks of UMass Dartmouth’s hardworking, ambitious students.

“These are students who want an education and they value it,” Elkins said. “They are eager to learn and succeed, but they need the opportunity to show that. They find that opportunity at UMassD, and they shine.”

Elkins is connected to a special group of students through the College Now program. In its 52nd year, College Now is an alternate admissions program for first-generation college students who demonstrate the desire and ability to attend college, but require additional supports. They could be just shy of a GPA prerequisite or come in under the required SAT score necessary for admissions. Or, they were told they weren’t “college material.” At College Now, students shed that perception and receive a complete package of support services to ensure success.

Through College Now’s holistic admissions process, the staff to get to know the student personally and understand their situation and the challenges they face. That connection lasts through their time at UMassD and contributes to their success.

“As we get to know the students, we quickly learn how dedicated they are and what they overcome to pursue a college degree,” he said. Elkins can attest that this work ethic applies to all UMassD students.

Financial aid support is critical

For many students, working while attending UMassD full-time is commonplace. They are paying for tuition, contributing to their family’s household finances, and maintain a range of commitments outside the classroom. “It’s not uncommon for a student to be working 25, 30, or 40 hours a week to help support their families, or be responsible for the day-to-day care of younger siblings,” Elkins said.

Financial aid support is critical to ensuring that students can access the opportunities for which they have worked so hard. The cost of tuition has always been a hurdle to overcome, but in today’s economic climate, that challenge is even greater.

“Just having the financial resources to remove some of the barriers like purchasing books or paying a past due balance is a key piece to ensuring a student’s success,” he said. “Alumni are some of our strongest supporters because they understand what our student population has overcome to get here and what they need.”

Support from alumni and donors for unrestricted financial aid truly makes an impact on a student’s life—sometimes making the difference between continuing their studies, or dropping out. “The saddest thing is seeing a student who is a Dean’s list or honor roll student who can’t enroll next semester because they don’t have the financial means to do so.”

Couple that financial support with the dedication of faculty and staff, and students find the opportunity at UMass Dartmouth to discover their strengths and achieve their goals. Watching this growth is the most rewarding part of the job for Elkins. “When you see a freshman come in and follow their success plan, and see the momentum they gain and the success that they achieve from their hard work and dedication, there is no better feeling,” he said.

Features Impact, Giving