‘A really special institution’: New two-year college opening in Riverdale this fall

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The University of Mount Saint Vincent will open a new two-year program this fall, Seton College, that will allow students to graduate with a two-year degree and no debt.
Photo courtesy University of Mount Saint Vincent

Starting this fall, Bronxites will have a brand-new two-year college option — one where almost all students will graduate debt-free. 

The new program, Seton College, will be housed on the campus of the University of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, a private four-year institution that adopted the smaller college in a school-within-a-school model facilitated by the nonprofit Come to Believe Network. 

This school-within-a-school arrangement is a first of its kind in New York and will give more traditionally underserved students the opportunity to earn a degree, according to Sam Adams, chief operating officer of the New-York based nonprofit.

“It’s a really special institution,” Adams said. 

The nonprofit plays something of a matchmaker role between host colleges looking for ways to serve more diverse populations and those who want to work on developing and recruiting for the smaller program. 

The first partnership facilitated by the Come to Believe Network was established in 2014 between Loyola University Chicago and its smaller two-year program, Arrupe College. The Come to Believe Network model has since been replicated in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the campus of the University of St. Thomas — and Seton College brings the unique arrangement to New York for the first time.

Seton College will be unique in many ways, said incoming dean Jason Ford. For starters, the college is designed for students with a C average — students who don’t qualify for merit-based financial aid but have strong potential and motivation to continue their education, he said. 

Students at Seton College will have plenty of support getting to graduation, said Ford, whose deanship at the college will be his first in the role. In the small program, staff and faculty will practice what he jokingly called “intrusive advising.” Counselors will be assigned to students and will “very regularly” check in on their overall well-being and academic progress. 

In addition, professors will have no research obligation, as is common at many higher education institutions, so they can focus solely on student learning.  A social worker and career counselors will round out the Seton College staff. 

Students will commute to the school and will likely live in the Bronx or nearby suburbs, and many will have a part-time job or internship while in school. Students will only be on campus Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with courses ending around 3 p.m. to allow time for students’ work schedules, according to Ford. 

However, the curriculum will be rigorous — comparable to the host school — and “designed with transfer in mind,” said Adams. Students can earn Associates’ degrees with concentrations in business, social science and health professions. The liberal arts curriculum is general enough to be “kind of exploratory,” said Adams, but specialized enough to give students a leg up when they begin their next step. 

Upon graduation, most students will simply be absorbed into the University of Mount Saint Vincent or enroll in other four-year programs, and about 20% of graduates will begin a job right away. But regardless of their path after Seton College, 90% of students will graduate with no debt, thanks to federal and state grants, said Adams. 

The school-within-a-school model is advantageous to both because the new institution can take advantage of existing resources and improve upon underused space, said Ford. For instance, Seton College will use science labs that already exist on campus. Students will also have access to all facilities on campus, with the exception of student housing and NCAA sports participation. 

Seton College is accepting applications until July 8, Ford said. With the last push to recruit 100 students for the inaugural class and doors opening this fall, the excitement is building.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to build something brand new,” said Ford.

Reach Emily Swanson at eswanson@schnepsmedia.com or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes