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Aug. 5, 2021

Clinton College Hover image

This month, colleges across the country will begin to welcome students back to campus. For first-year students, it can be a daunting time. For first-generation students, it can be overwhelming. 

Clinton College, a historically Black college in Rock Hill, South Carolina, helps new students prepare for their first year through a bridge program the summer before school starts. Funding from a BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina grant supported this effort and allowed about 10 students to attend the program. 

“A big part of the program was preparing incoming freshmen so they have the upper hand when they start school in the fall,” says Erin Giddens, director of communications for the college. 

Students in the program took courses that will help with credits and seminars focused on life and study skills they will need in college. 

Erin Gidden Hover image

Erin Giddens

“We want them to be successful. A lot of our students are the first in their families to go to college, and they don’t necessarily have guidance at home or in their communities to help them navigate their first year of school,” Giddens says. 

The funding from BlueCross was part of the company’s commitment to the state’s six private, four-year, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The goal was to help with financial needs to ensure sustainability and help get as many students as possible to begin or continue their education with these institutions. 

For one Morris College student in Sumter, the funding meant an opportunity to stay in school and finish a degree program. 

“Funding like this is so important because it allows our students, many of whom are first-generation students or are from low-wealth families, to have what they need and the right resources for a successful college experience,” Giddens says. 

At Clinton College, students have struggled financially as many have during the COVID-19 pandemic, she says. The school saw a dip in enrollment during the pandemic. In the last year, HBCUs reported increased challenges around the coronavirus that disproportionally impacts communities of color and racial unrest. 

A benefit to a small college like Clinton is the ability to form close relationships. It can be like a family. This can make all the difference to students struggling, she says. 

“It has been struggle for faculty and staff to not be able to tend to students' needs as we would like because of the pandemic,” Giddens says. “We are going back to campus partially in the fall, so we're hoping that will allow us to be more involved in our students' lives.” 
 

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