Non-profit Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Helps Students With “The Will But Not The Way” Earn Capabilities-Based, Affordable Associates Degrees
Today, MyCollege Foundation and Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, announced the launch of Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s, to offer high-quality, transfer-level Associate degrees to high-potential students who have “the will but not the way” to college success. With all-in costs of $5,240 per student per year—approximately the amount of a Federal Pell Grant, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s will provide access to quality personalized learning solutions and comprehensive wrap-around support services that will ensure high persistence and graduation levels. The MyCollege Foundation concept was developed during the founder’s time as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has also provided early grant support. Portmont College has been developed in close partnership with Mount St. Mary’s College, which is ranked among the top 30 regional universities in the West by US News & World Report. Mount St. Mary’s College is a regionally accredited institution and Portmont students will be eligible to receive Title IV funds while attending the college.
“Portmont is designed to be the springboard for those young adults who have the grit and determination to succeed, but who face burdens and barriers, financial or otherwise, that could limit that success,” said Srikant Vasan, Founder and President of Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s. “In partnership with Mount St. Mary’s College, we have created top quality, yet affordable, Associate’s degree programs that combine rigorous academics with critical supports and resources to ensure students can not only access, but complete the high-quality education necessary to build careers and create futures for themselves.”
“Portmont offers a degree attainment option for underserved students through a scalable and cost-effective model,” said Josh Jarrett, Deputy Director of Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are pleased to see this idea, conceived while Srikant was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the foundation, come to life. This model is designed to deliver a rigorous academic program for students who have more motivation than means and connect them to opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have.”
“Mount St. Mary’s has had a longstanding commitment to educating the underserved. This new, exciting partnership brings this commitment and our top-quality curriculum together with Portmont’s innovations in pedagogy, technology, and student supports to offer a high quality, personalized educational experience to thousands of new students. The launch of Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s will help address the national challenge of broadening access to high quality education at lower costs,” said Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, President of Mount St. Mary’s College.
Building Capabilities Needed For Long-Term Success
The college anticipates launching four blended Associate degree programs that combine the best of personalized online education with in-person student cohorts, supports, and social learning opportunities: Business Administration, Computer Science, Liberal Arts, and Pre-Health Science. These programs have been uniquely developed with Portmont’s target student population in mind. From its personalized learning environment that tracks mastery of course material to prescriptive course sequencing and social and problem-based learning approaches, the Portmont experience has been carefully designed to ensure its students’ success and prepare its graduates to transfer to an elite four-year degree institution or launch their career.
The hallmark of the Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s curriculum is its focus on core capabilities that students will need for long-term career success. This includes curriculum designed to advance skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communications, information literacy, teamwork, performance character, and learning to learn. Unlike other institutions, these core capabilities are not only taught, but developed and measured at a student level multiple times within each course. Students, their potential employers, and the Portmont community of support will consistently have visibility into a student’s progress along these core capabilities.
“Portmont students will graduate with not just a high quality, respected degree, but also the ability to think clearly, work well in teams, and communicate effectively,” said Srikant Vasan. “They will have what they need to succeed in the workforce and in their communities.”
Creating Meaningful Connections
Portmont students will be part of a connected, supportive community of faculty, coaches, and peers. It starts with the Portmont “Success Launch Process,” which goes beyond the cognitive topics typically addressed by college success courses and utilizes a series of four courses to develop intrapersonal and interpersonal skills correlated to work and life success. Before being accepted to Portmont, prospective students attend the “Launch Pad” – a free three-week online course that provides an opportunity for the college to observe students’ online course taking behavior first-hand, as student behavior is one of the primary criteria for gaining admission into the full Portmont program. If successful, students will advance to “Ignition” – an intensive in-person, one-week experiential learning program to absorb the college culture, and bond with their Success Coach and the 15 cohort peers who will form their support community. These student cohorts start coursework together and provide mutual help and support through social media tools. During the students’ first two academic terms they will continue the sequence in the “Lift Off” and “Soar” courses to reinforce the concepts learned in prior courses and provide ongoing support. Throughout their Portmont experience, students will have a personal support network of success coaches and faculty who will continually tailor proactive interventions using student-specific academic and behavioral data.
Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s will work with community partners, such as charter schools, public schools, and community organizations to identify students with grit and determination but also the burdens and barriers to success. The admissions team will evaluate candidates based primarily on their grit, motivation, and resilience. Given the community-centricity and the need for holistic, blended student supports, Portmont will launch and grow city-by-city starting in Denver, Colorado, and followed next by San Francisco, California. Once the model is working well in Denver and San Francisco, Portmont plans to admit students from additional cities nationwide.
Cultivating a Student-Centric Team
In addition to the administrative and faculty leadership at Mount St. Mary’s College, which has been intimately involved in the development and approval of its curriculum, Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s assembled a team of seasoned professionals, including:
* Srikant Vasan, President: Former Senior program officer at Gates Foundation, co-founder & CEO of StorePerform and KBkids, Founding team member and director of business development of MediaOne, Consultant at McKinsey & Co.
* Dr. Vernon Smith, Provost: Former Vice President of Academic Affairs at Rio Salado College, a nationally recognized online college with tens of thousands of online students. Serves on the board of directors of EDUCAUSE.
* Dr. Michael Cottam, Dean of Instruction: Former Associate Dean of Instruction at Rio Salado College and a certified Quality Matters Reviewer.
* Lucas Budman, Chief Technology Officer: Former Vice President and Head of Technology for Cognilytics, Director of Research for RedPrairie and Store Perform Technologies and Senior Architect for Xcel Energy Markets.
* Ann Marie O’Connor, Vice President of Product Management: Former Director of Retail Strategy at RedPrairie and product management for StorePerform.
* Dr. Jim Knickerbocker, Director of Student Engagement: Former Managing Director of Academy for College Excellence, Organizational development consultant at Hewlett-Packard.
* Shannon Neumann, Director of Enrollment Management: Former Director of Enrollment Management for Ivy Bridge College of Tiffin University.
Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s is now accepting student applications, and it will host its first three-week Success Launch Pad Course in December with the first academic semester beginning on March 4, 2013. Portmont will offer rolling admission there after.
About Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s
Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s is a non-profit joint venture between Mount St. Mary’s College and MyCollege Foundation. Through Mount St. Mary’s College, a national, non-profit, regionally accredited institution, it offers high-quality, transfer-level Associate degrees to high-potential students who have “the will but not the way” to college success. With all-in costs of $5,240 per student per year – approximately the amount of a Federal Pell Grant – students have affordable access to quality personalized learning solutions, comprehensive wrap-around support services, and post-program placement, ensuring high persistence and graduation levels. For more information, visit portmont.la.edu.
About Mount St. Mary’s, Los Angeles;
Founded in 1925, Mount St. Mary’s College is a Catholic, liberal arts college where excellence and innovation define its every endeavor. Mount St. Mary’s provides a dynamic education to a diverse student body that primarily includes women, first-generation students and other underserved populations. Mount St. Mary’s offers associate and bachelor’s degrees for women, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs for working adults on two historic campuses in Los Angeles. The mission of Mount St. Mary’s is to provide a superior education enhanced by an emphasis on building leadership skills and fostering a spirit to serve others.
About MyCollege Foundation:
MyCollege Foundation, is a 501c(3) public charity and a grantee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to help low-income youth in America gain high quality college credentials more affordably. It has partnered with Mount St. Mary’s College to establish Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s, and provides Portmont College with the funding and the pedagogical, technology, and student support innovations it needs to succeed in its mission.