A program to help undergraduates new to Caltech with the expenses involved in the transition to campus has awarded its first grants to 82 students, with beneficiaries hailing from as close as the Greater Pasadena area to as far as France and the Middle East.
"While the Institute's financial aid program does provide students with aid to support their college experience beyond just tuition and room and board, the funding can't be distributed until after they arrive," says Jarrid Whitney, assistant vice president for student affairs, enrollment and career services. Philanthropist Richard Merkin, Whitney adds, "created this program to address that need and allow the Institute to provide financial support during that pre-arrival period."
The Richard N. Merkin Start-Up Scholars Grants is designed to assist students from low-income backgrounds with the start-up costs that are specifically associated with enrolling in college, providing pre-paid air and ground transportation to campus as well as dorm supplies.
"In an increasingly competitive academic environment, our goal is to remove obstacles for deserving students to help them navigate the admissions process and settle into campus life without having to worry about finances," says Caltech trustee Richard N. Merkin, MD. "The objective is to make sure that all students can take full advantage of their time at Caltech and enjoy a gratifying and exciting start to their academic careers."
Michelle Li, a first-year student, says receiving the supplies and transportation the grants provided "helped relieve a lot of stress for me and my family. I didn't have to worry about bringing every single thing to campus, or about how I was going to buy it once I got here. Arriving at Caltech was a very smooth transition."
The 82 recipients included 21 students starting their second year at Caltech (which, due to the pandemic, was actually their first term in-person and on campus) as well as two transfer students.
Whitney says the grant is a part of a larger five-year donation for other various campus-based programs to recruit and enroll students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. In future years, once large-group events are deemed safe, a portion of the Start-Up funds may be used to support more on-campus recruitment programs meant to attract and retain underrepresented students.