Rutgers Future Scholars Program Helps Low-Income Students Attend College

By Briana Vannozzi

“I’m Connor MacKay I’m from Rahway, I plan on becoming a neurosurgeon to help all kids become healthy,” said the seventh-grader.

They’ve got big plans and the help of the state’s biggest university to get them there. This is the Rutgers Future Scholars Class of 2025.

“It’s life changing for a lot of young families,” said Courtney McAnuff, vice president of enrollment management admissions at Rutgers University.

Two hundred fifteen middle schoolers from New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark, Rahway and Camden will be the eighth class to graduate from the Rutgers University program.

“We’re guaranteeing free tuition and fees should they be admitted to the university, as long as they earn their way in,” McAnuff said.

Teachers and administrators nominate low-income, academically promising students. They have to be first-generation college goers. And they’ve got to complete tough benchmarks over the next six years.

Is this giving Je-Naya Shipley extra motivation to stay on track?

“Yes it’s making me want to push myself more so I can go to college and medical school, get my degrees and make my mom proud,” said the seventh-grader.

Rutgers Future Scholars has 1,800 students enrolled and virtually every single one is on track to graduate high school and attend college.

The university wanted a way to get more students from their host districts into the school. What they found was the need for a direct path from inner-city life to a college education.

“In middle school my application for the program was actually discarded, thrown in the trash,” said Jason Gaines, Rutgers Future Scholars Class of 2017.

Because Gaines, now a college senior and in his third year of an internship with AT&T, was a doomed trouble maker.

Would he say it changed his life?

“Oh yes, my life was definitely one, very similar to the 1,800 students in the program. You know, we don’t have many people in our communities who are great examples of success and when we got admitted to the program, we had people saying, ‘Hey, we believe in you,’” he said.

It’s paid for thanks to public/private partnerships. On this day, AT&T presented RFS with a $150,000 check.

“We have a commitment to the communities in which we live and work and we also see the value in education,” said Cathy Martine, president of AT&T Enterprise Business Solutions.

“I think once we take the onus of, how am I going to pay for college? All the things they have to do is study and get the grades necessary. Money’s not going to be the issue,” McAnuff said.

A helping hand, and a gentle nudge.