Two-year associate degrees have long been offered almost exclusively at community colleges, but the model pioneered at Loyola is picking up steam at private, nonprofit four-year universities around the country. Many of these are Jesuit schools like Loyola, which say that lower-cost two-year associate degree programs particularly help students who need the most support.

“It’s a reach-in culture,” said the Rev. Thomas Neitzke, Arrupe’s dean. “It’s that total wraparound, both in the classroom and outside the classroom.”

The expansion of the Arrupe model is largely being championed by Steve Katsouros, who was the founding dean of Arrupe nine years ago and is now president and CEO of the Come To Believe Network, a nonprofit focused solely on bringing two-year degrees to four-year schools. The network raises money to provide grants to universities to start associate degree programs.

In addition to Loyola, schools that have either recently opened or plan to open two-year colleges include the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, the University of Mount Saint Vincent in New York City, Butler University in Indiana and Boston College.

A handful of other schools, such as the University of the Pacific in California, are considering programs. And Homeboy Industries, a gang rehabilitation nonprofit, is exploring partnering with Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles to create an associate degree program.

Even considering the concept can help a college learn more about the needs of its broader student body, Katsouros said. “We try to identify the factors that prevent students from being successful,” Katsouros said, noting that most of the programs also offer some combination of free meals, laptops and housing.

The concept also suggests a way to diversify and expand enrollment. Programs in the Come To Believe Network must commit to accepting lower-income students and keeping their loan debt to a minimum. At Arrupe, for instance, the advertised tuition is a little over $13,000 a year, but scholarships and work-study programs mean most students pay about $2,000, Neitzke said. The strategy, he explained, is partly to attract students who can’t afford private universities and might not want to attend cheaper public community colleges that don’t offer as much personal attention.

Read the full article about support underserved students by Matt Krupnik at The Hechinger Report .