As a Catholic university, DePaul has always sought to express its mission through a commitment to educational opportunity, particularly for low-income and first-generation college students, and students from the immediate Chicago area. This commitment has evolved as the university has grown in quality and reputation, and as the economic, demographic and policy environments continue to change. As a result, the Center for Access & Attainment's programs and activities both reflect and inform a strategic approach to student access and degree attainment in line with the university's strategic plan to enhance academic quality, deepen connections with the city of Chicago and foster diversity and inclusion.
What this means for the center is a focus on programs and pathways that are designed to expand college opportunity and preparation, and a focus on long-term partnerships with schools, school systems and community organizations that build capacity and civic connection. Yet access without attainment is essentially a promise denied. To this end, the center also administers the university's federal TRiO programs, Student Support Services and McNair Scholars Program, as well as the Arnold Mitchem Fellowship program — all designed to support low-income and first-generation students through the university to the timely completion of the baccalaureate degree, and prepare them to enter graduate and doctoral programs.
And in a university committed both to quality and inclusion, the center brings institutional attention and intelligence to bear on the question of, "Access for whom, and to what?" It is a question the center approaches both through research and practice, by working with Institutional Research and Market Analytics (within the division of Enrollment Management and Marketing) to develop an ongoing research agenda around student access and attainment at DePaul, and by developing programs that are valued not only for the service they provide but the value they add to institutional understanding and strategy.