Beginning with the fall 2020 application cycle, Fordham will meet up to the full cost of tuition for Cristo Rey Network students admitted to the University through either the traditional full-time admission process or the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP-NY State).
“We’ve been working as partners with Cristo Rey for many, many years. This is an opportunity for us to take that commitment to a new level and help make a private education more affordable and possible for some of those students,” said Patricia Peek, Ph.D., dean of undergraduate admission at Fordham.
The Cristo Rey Network is a group of 37 Catholic high schools across the U.S. that primarily serves students from low-income families. What makes the network unusual is its four-year corporate work-study program, featured on 60 Minutes in 2004. Students balance their classes with entry-level jobs at local businesses. They gain work experience and earn money that goes directly to the school to cover part of their tuition.
Extending A Decade-Long Relationship
For more than a decade, Fordham has shared strong ties with the network’s schools, many of which are Jesuit-affiliated. Cristo Rey students have read their poetry at Fordham’s Poets Out Loud series. Fordham Founders Stephen E. Bepler, FCRH ’64, and John Ryan Heller served as trustees at Cristo Rey schools in East Harlem and Chicago, respectively. And the founding president of Cristo Rey New York High School, Joseph P. Parkes, S.J., JES ’68, served as a Fordham trustee and received an honorary degree from the University in 2019.
The University is especially close to Cristo Rey New York High School. Located in East Harlem, the school has sent more students to Fordham than any other school in the Cristo Rey network. Since the school graduated its first class in 2008, at least one student has come to Fordham each year, for a total of 69 enrollees in the last 11 years, said Peek.
“Every year, we always get a ton of students saying, ‘We’re applying to Fordham. We want to really get in, and what can we do to get there?’” said Martha V. Fermín, director of college guidance at Cristo Rey New York High School and a 2011 graduate of the school. “I really hope that this [partnership] continues to flourish in many ways, and we can continue to collaborate in any way possible.”
The East Harlem school was profiled by The New York Times in 2007. A year later, the second Cristo Rey school in New York—Cristo Rey Brooklyn High School, formerly known as Lourdes Academy High School—opened. Fordham has had nine enrolled students from the Brooklyn school.
The University’s new financial pledge can also make a difference for Cristo Rey students outside of New York who aren’t candidates for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP-NY State), which provides eligible students with educational support services and additional financial assistance.
“By expanding our funding opportunity, we’re hoping this will help make a Fordham education possible for Cristo Rey students at a distance,” Peek said.
‘It Touches Me Deeply’
News of the agreement caught the attention of Jordi Giler: a Cristo Rey alumnus, junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, and HEOP student. His younger sister is currently a senior at Cristo Rey New York High School who recently applied to Fordham, he said.
“[The new pledge] eliminates one of the greatest burdens that a kid has, going into the college process, which is money,” said Giler, a political science major from the Bronx who wants to work in immigration policy reform. “A lot of kids from Cristo Rey—me and my sister included—we don’t come from rich homes. We come from traditionally lower-class or middle-class homes, where one of the main concerns about going to college is, are they giving me enough money? Do we have to take out loans?”
For Emely Mojica—a Cristo Rey alumna, sophomore at Fordham College at Rose Hill, and HEOP student—the new pledge is a powerful one.
“It touches me deeply. I’m the eldest of five children, and I’m the first in my family to go to college. I’m able to be at Fordham because I’m here on three scholarships,” said Mojica, an English major from the Dominican Republic who wants to work in corporate communications. “It’s going to be so much more helpful and accessible to receive higher education, especially for Cristo Rey students who I know deserve it and work so hard.”