A Leg Up

QuestBridge scholarship helps low-income students and Grinnell
Jeremy Shapiro

Since 2010 Grinnell College has partnered with QuestBridge, a national nonprofit organization that connects high-achieving, low-income high school students with educational opportunities. 

“These students are otherwise hard to reach through more traditional recruiting methods like high school visits and college fairs,” says Sarah Fischer, director of admission. 

QuestBridge guides high school students through the whole college search process and helps them prepare a strong college application. Through QuestBridge, qualified high school students apply to and then rank the colleges they would like to attend. In turn, the Grinnell admission team examines which candidates they would like to select for admission. If there’s a match, the student is offered what amounts to binding early admission with a full scholarship. During the past three years, 46 students were matched to the College through QuestBridge. 

“We strive to enroll a class that represents a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and the partnership with QuestBridge has allowed us to attract a lot of outstanding students who come from lower-income backgrounds,” Fischer says.

The College covers 100 percent of the comprehensive fee for QuestBridge Scholars. This currently amounts to more than $260,000 over four years per student. While admission leaders enthusiastically embrace the benefits of QuestBridge, it does come with a financial cost. 

That’s where John Pilgrim ’65 and Anne Young Pilgrim ’65 have stepped up. The Durham, North Carolina, couple created the Pilgrim QuestBridge Scholarship Fund, pledging $65,000 over five years to offset a portion of the expenses.   

“Anne and I feel very committed to doing what we can to make the Grinnell student body today more economically diverse and to assure that all Grinnell students, regardless of their economic circumstances, can take full advantage of all the educational opportunities Grinnell offers,” John Pilgrim says.

By implementing this new type of scholarship fund, the Pilgrims hope to encourage other donors to consider making similar gifts. 

“The national policy is increasingly directed against low-income people and low-income students,” John Pilgrim notes. “This is intensified by the steady, significant rise in income inequality over the last 40 years. QuestBridge is one small step in the opposite direction. It fits our values, it fits Grinnell’s resources, and it’s our pleasure and privilege to make a small dent in the finances.” 

Questbridge participants

“The QuestBridge focus on the identification of talented low-income students from across the United States helps Grinnell realize its three fundamental commitments to academic excellence, diversity, and social responsibility,” says Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid. “We are grateful to John and Anne for their support of these students and look forward to working with other alumni to serve more QuestBridge Scholars.” 

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