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Back to News <em>Come to Believe</em> Every Student Deserves a Place at the Mount

Come to Believe Every Student Deserves a Place at the Mount

10/16/2023

Mount Saint Vincent Launches New Two-Year College, Further Supporting Underserved Students Through Access to Higher Education

Listen to President Burns’ video announcement that premiered this past weekend at Reunion and Homecoming Weekend 2023.

Excitement always abounds on the Mount’s Riverdale campus as hundreds gather for our annual Reunion and Homecoming Weekend celebrations, but—this year—the community-wide enthusiasm was only further amplified as the University of Mount Saint Vincent announced the launch of Seton College, a new two-year college on its campus, in partnership with the Come to Believe Network (CTB), a nonprofit that assists higher education institutions in developing and launching two-year programs that provide pathways for underserved students to receive four-year degrees. 

Inspired by the charism of the Sisters of Charity of New York and their two centuries-long mission of providing transformational educational experiences to all students—regardless of family and financial means—Seton College will be a two-year junior college that will educate students in the Vincentian/Setonian tradition and enable them to either enter the workforce or transfer to a four-year college or university at the conclusion of their studies.

The Mount is forever indebted to our foundresses for their endless support of higher education, but their commitment has only been further recognized in their generosity to underwrite a significant investment to launch Seton College. Following such a substantial gift, the Mount made the considerate decision to name the new two-year school after the Congregation’s founding mother and the first American-born Catholic Saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton.

“For over 175 years, Mount Saint Vincent has been educating students rooted in the tenets of goodness, discipline, and knowledge. Our dear Sisters are trailblazers. They are heroines and they are innovators. It took a lot of courage for the Mount to take this leap and form a two-year school on campus. But, after watching what the Sisters have done for generations of young people seeking the benefits of education—women, the sick, the marginalized—we knew this was something we had to do to continue to ensure every single student seeking access to higher education can receive it.”

— Dr. Susan R. Burns, President

An October 2022 study issued by the Office of the New York State Comptroller stated that, in 2019, only three quarters of New York City’s public high school students graduated on time and, of those graduates, an even smaller percentage—57 percent—were considered college-ready. There are, of course, many varying definitions to college-readiness, but they all have at their core assessments of students’ proficiency levels in reading, writing, and math.

Furthermore, over one third of those New York City public high school graduates in 2019 did not enroll in any type of college or university within six months of graduation, and over twelve percent of those who did enroll dropped out within 18 months. Students from minority backgrounds were overrepresented in this population—and are most often those most significantly impacted by the effects of intergenerational poverty.

It has been further proven that education is the best tool for combating poverty and fostering economic growth. The University of Mount Saint Vincent was recently ranked number one on U.S. News and World Report’s list of top performers for social mobility within the northeast. In the coming decade, economic forecasts show that the fastest growing professions will all require education or training beyond high school. Seton College will help make transformative career opportunities not only attainable, but within reach for deserving young people in our local communities of the Bronx, lower Westchester, and beyond.

“We are determined to help close the educational attainment gap here in New York City,” continued Dr. Burns. “The landscape of higher education is evidently changing. Since the start of the pandemic, particularly, families across the country have been questioning the value of a four-year degree and have instead shown higher levels of support for students interested in pursuing a two-year degree. With that in mind, we are proud to open Seton College and further demonstrate how the Mount is continuing to listen to the signs of the times and preparing all students to become leaders in their chosen fields and communities.”

And while the announcement of Seton College is significant news in and of itself, the Mount is proud to share that the launch of the new two-year program comes coupled with even bigger news: the soon-to-be transition to become the University of Mount Saint Vincent in early 2024. More information will be shared in the coming weeks.

To help establish Seton College, the Mount has partnered with the Come to Believe (CTB) Network, a nonprofit organization that works as an accelerator within the higher education space by helping institutions bring its model to life through a results-driven, affordable two-year commuter program. The model, developed under the leadership of Fr. Steve Katsouros, SJ, EdD, offers eligible students who would have otherwise been excluded from higher education the opportunity to earn an associate degree. So far, the CTB model has been successfully implemented at Arrupe College (hosted by Loyola University Chicago) and Dougherty Family College (hosted by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota).

“The students in our model colleges come to believe that they have a place in higher education,” said Fr. Katsouros, Founder, President, and CEO of Come to Believe and Founding Dean of Arrupe College. “Mount Saint Vincent already has a rich history of serving the underserved. It was an easy decision for Come to Believe to partner with the Mount to found Seton College, which will provide a pathway for underserved students across the New York area to obtain a degree.”

The CTB model typically aims to serve students who are first-generation and/or Federal Pell Grant-eligible. Learners are provided with a structured and supportive cohort. Currently, over 75 percent of CTB students who enter a four-year college or university upon graduation complete a bachelor’s degree in five years—compared to only 14 percent of students nationally who finish a two-year program and complete a bachelor’s degree in six years.

Less than 25 percent of students enrolled in CTB model colleges accumulate debt while obtaining their associate degree. That will continue to be the goal for the students of Seton College.

“We want our students to graduate debt-free. Already low tuition costs, coupled with state and federal aid and generous institutional scholarships supported by donor-generated funds, help students focus on what’s most important: their education and not how they are going to pay for it.”

— Fr. Steve Katsouros, SJ, EdD

The CTB model centers on rigorous academic programming, high-touch staffing, and holistic student supports. Students enroll in the same level of classes they would at a four-year institution, but purposely small class sizes are taught by dedicated, full-time faculty members who provide personalized support. Additionally, all students receive breakfast and lunch each day they are on campus, a laptop, and the help of a financial aid officer and social workers.

The first cohort of 100 students at Seton College will enroll in Fall 2024 and will be offered four pathways toward an Associate of Arts degree: liberal arts, medical, business, and social sciences. The Mount has selected Jason Ford to serve as Founding Dean.

Dean Ford brings to Seton College years of experience overseeing the administrative operations of both academic and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he worked as a member of the Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation (SCHDC)—another sponsored ministry of the Congregation—managing 17 existing affordable, supportive, and homeless housing developments in Rockland County and in Manhattan and Staten Island, N.Y. Prior to his work with the SCHDC, he spent time in the enrollment management and student affairs divisions at Iona University in New Rochelle, N.Y. and held tenures as a classroom teacher and assistant principal in Catholic schools across the country.

“I’m honored to have been selected to serve as the Founding Dean of Seton College,” said Dean Ford. “We have a lot of work to do over the next few months—preparing space on the Mount’s campus for our classrooms and offices; hiring administrators, faculty members, and advisors; and, of course, recruiting our inaugural class. I’m eager to begin to forge meaningful relationships with Seton College students and expand upon the mission of the Sisters of Charity as we lift up those who have otherwise been underrepresented and underserved in higher education today.”

Seton College students will take classes during three or four days of the week and will be expected to work a part-time job—obtained through the help of several corporate partners—for the remainder of their weekdays and on weekends.

Students who qualify for admission to Seton College will be those who are ineligible for admission to the undergraduate University of Mount Saint Vincent. Seton College students will have high school records that are below the standard admission requirements for the undergraduate college, and their families will also demonstrate significant financial need with an estimated family contribution of at or near zero dollars. Graduates of Seton College will be welcome, but not mandated, to transfer to the undergraduate college.

With the launch of the University of Mount Saint Vincent arriving in just a few short months, it’s only fitting for the Mount’s new brand to come coupled with the announcement of Seton College. 

With so much abuzz on campus this academic year, it’s only fitting for the Mount to have such exciting news to share with our community as we continue to position ourselves as the Right Place on the River. Looking for more easter eggs? If you haven’t already, check out the video from Reunion and Homecoming Weekend.

But, let’s not forget that our deep-rooted belief that a student’s education extends far beyond knowledge, skills, and preparation for work, and rather the comprehensive development of the whole person, continues to expand as we welcome more and more diverse groups of learners into the Mount community.

Don’t believe us? Maybe Sr. Donna Dodge, President of the Sisters of Charity of New York, can convince you:

“I could not think of a better way to deepen our legacy at Mount Saint Vincent than with the sponsorship and naming of Seton College. The Sisters of Charity are confident that our mission and charism will continue to thrive at Mount Saint Vincent in the future. We are eager to see all the good work that will develop as Seton College welcomes its first class of students.”

— Sr. Donna Dodge, SC


About Come to Believe Network
The Come to Believe Network (CTB) partners with colleges and universities to implement an innovative two-year model that supports underserved students in achieving success in higher education. CTB provides practical services such as strategic planning, launch support, best practices and community development to expand access and facilitate completion of degrees. To delve deeper into CTB’s transformative mission, visit cometobelieve.org.

About the University of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the University of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.