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Oregon News

Linfield College Becomes Bridge Partner to Better Serve the New Majority

We sat down with Gerardo Ochoa, director of community relations and special assistant to the president at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, to hear more about what’s on the horizon on their campus, and why they’ve deepened their partnership with College Possible.

Linfield College Students

Gerardo has been with Linfield College for 15 years, holding several different roles, but all with the goal of working with students to ensure they feel they are a valued part of the institution, and to make sure they are able to afford school. He has seen first-hand the dramatic shift in who is attending Linfield, and he’s been part of the College’s evolution into a school where all students can thrive.

Linfield College is now close to 60 percent of what it’s calling the “new majority”, students who are:

  • Pell Grant eligible,
  • students of color,
  • transfer students,
  • or first-generation students.

One of the biggest barriers that colleges around the country face is affordability. Private schools, in particular, have to do a lot of demystifying around the cost of attending. If students just look at tuition rates they could be discouraged, but Linfield College, and many other private institutions, offer generous institutional scholarships that are both merit- and need-based. In many cases, a Linfield College education is more affordable than attending a public institution.

Linfield College has been an Explore partner with College Possible since 2015, providing the opportunity for students to go on a campus visit to their campus. This spring, it became a Bridge partnership in order to better support the new majority students.

Gerardo Ochoa“What I see is that College Possible is guiding students all the way to college graduation. For us, it’s a logical partnership because we’re not just about access. We want students to graduate and we’re focusing on retention and graduation. It goes back to what the research shows: mentorship, coaching and relationship building are all key to student success.”

In addition to its increased partnership with College Possible, Linfield College has also created the Linfield First Scholarship program this year. This program is specifically for first-generation students and provides scholarship dollars, participation in pre-orientation programs and connections to a variety of mentors. Linfield College’s goal is to provide at least four significant relationships and supports for each first-generation student. Building strong relationships with faculty, staff, peers, and alumni are critical to student success.

“First-generation students need someone to teach them the hidden rules of college. There are a lot of unique things about college that someone needs to teach new students. We’re at a point now where we’re being very intentional about doing that.”

Want to see Gerardo Ochoa in action? Check out his TEDTalk on why pronouncing names correctly matters.

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