Luther Alumni Magazine

CATALYZE for student success

Luther just upped its student persistence game. It recently became one of six colleges to partner with College Possible, a leader in college admission and success among low-income students. College Possible has a proven track record: its students are four times more likely to earn degrees than their low-income peers not in the program.

Marcella Meza ’18 and Daniel Brown ’18 mentor Luther students through College Possible's Catalyze program.
Marcella Meza ’18 and Daniel Brown ’18 mentor Luther students through College Possible's Catalyze program.

Luther is poised to leverage this success by hosting a branch of College Possible’s Catalyze program, which pairs low-income and first-generation college students with a near-peer coach (recent college graduate) who provides academic, emotional, and logistical help in navigating campus life. This can look like anything from helping students fill out a FAFSA, register for classes, find a work-study job or internship, get tutoring, pay bills, and generally maneuver campus systems to lending emotional support or connecting them with counseling services.

One of the strengths of the Catalyze program is the near-peer model. “College Possible research shows that students may be more willing to ask for help from people close to their own age,” says Michelle Boike ’13, Catalyze program coordinator. “It’s often easier to be vulnerable with someone younger than with someone who seems like a person of authority.”

Luther’s Catalyze program has the added advantage that each of its near-peer coaches are Luther graduates, so they’re already familiar with the processes and resources available on campus. Marcella Meza ’18 says that as alumni, she and her fellow coach, Daniel Brown ’18, are able to ask themselves: What did we struggle with as students here?

According to College Possible, only 9 percent of low-income students earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared to 77 percent of students in the top income quartile. But Luther’s Catalyze staff is hoping to turn that number around.

Brown says, “We seek out all the resources and ways that students can be supported. Just because something may not be visible doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Meza agrees, adding, “Hopefully the resources we’re connecting students with will foster self-advocacy and help students realize that they can do this.”