NCU News

Private College Week Camp Helps Rural, Low-Income Students "Find the Right Fit"


2016_OPCW_GEARUP_Dinner-7652-72_DPIPortland, Ore. – In conjunction with Oregon Private College Week (, Oregon GEAR UP and The Alliance hosted a one-week summer program for rural, low-income students to explore opportunities available at private, nonprofit colleges across the state. 21 rising seniors from Taft High School (Lincoln City), Hermiston High School, Woodburn High School, Cottage Grove High School, Gaston Junior/Senior High School, Newport High School, Dayton High School, La Pine High School, and South Umpqua High School (Myrtle Creek) spent a week visiting and learning about private, nonprofit colleges in Oregon.

Students toured seven campuses and participated in workshops about the college search and application process. “I feel prepared to tackle my senior year because of the new understanding that I have gained by all the different admission counselors and the GEAR UP staff,” said Jade Stanford-Whightsil, a rising senior at South Umpqua High School. 95% of students have an unchanged or more positive opinion of Oregon’s private colleges after the experience and 100% of students said the information they learned on campus tours and info sessions was useful and that the camp was a valuable experience.

In addition, students learned about other private colleges at a mock College Fair and connected with college students who serve as near-peer mentors. “The opportunity to view colleges side by side rather than individually has been wonderful,” said Dawson Oliver, a 12th-grade student at Gaston Junior/Senior High School. “When deciding college fit, it really helps to be able to compare colleges directly, and this week has definitely helped me in my college search.” Hear more from students about the impact of the camp:

Low-income students are less likely to attend higher education, less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to attend an independent college than their higher-income peers. Yet, a study by The Council of Independent Colleges found that students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds routinely experience better outcomes if they attend a smaller private college. “Our goal is to dispel the myth for our schools and students that private colleges are only for affluent students,” said Adrienne Enriquez, a program manager with Oregon GEAR UP. “Oregon Private College Week Camp helps students ‘find the right fit’ and explore postsecondary options at many different institutions.”

The Oregon GEAR UP program — which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program — is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college. The Alliance represents and serves private, nonprofit colleges and universities across the state. Private College Week Camp is one of several collaborations between Oregon GEAR UP and The Alliance.

“Partnering with organizations such as Oregon GEAR UP allows us to reach promising young people and make an introduction to our member colleges, who offer a supportive, personalized environment where students from all backgrounds can thrive,” said Brent Wilder, Vice President of The Alliance. “This partnership advances an Alliance objective to ensure that all young people have equal opportunity to access a quality and personalized education experience at one of Oregon’s leading private, nonprofit colleges and graduate with the skills to immediately impact the state’s talent needs.”

More information about Oregon GEAR UP: More information about The Alliance:

Contact Info:
Brent Wilder, Vice President, The Alliance

Adrienne Enriquez, Program Manager, Oregon GEAR UP