Fighting Irish for All: Helping under-resourced students have the full Notre Dame experience

Fighting Irish For All

The Notre Dame family now numbers more than 100,000 increasingly diverse individuals. As the University deepens its commitment to diversity and inclusion, it must also create an environment where all can flourish and feel part of the community.

In the 2019–20 academic year, the cost of attendance at Notre Dame was an estimated $74,193. For those students whose families make below the median annual income of $61,372, the University median scholarship covers almost 90 percent of tuition, room and board. But for under-resourced students, keeping up with their peers as they purchase football tickets, new books, or even winter clothes, can prove challenging.

In 2016, the Fighting Irish Initiative, run by the Office of Student Enrichment, was launched thanks to a $20 million gift from Sean and Sue Cullinan. The fund is meant to ensure that low-income and first-generation students can have the full Notre Dame experience and to defray costs including commencement tickets, travel, laptops, laundry, and move-in expenses. This fund replaced the informal Rector Fund which was previously used to cover similar incidentals.

A 2018 national study found that while first-generation students comprise one-third of college admittees, only 27 percent graduate within four years. The rate is even lower for first-generation students who are also low-income. But at Notre Dame, where the graduation rate is more than 95 percent, it’s essential to help low-income and first-generation students not just pass college, but thrive.

The Office of Student Enrichment also offers a $2,000 per year fund for Fighting Irish Scholars who are then required to attend regular meetings about time management, budgeting, and college life. The extra coaching, along with a student mentor, ensures students can more seamlessly adjust. In the 201718 academic year, 74 students were awarded the Fighting Irish Scholars award. The Office of Student Enrichment also works closely with 1stG ND, a student group for first generation students, to make sure all eligible students are aware of the resources available.

In its first year, the Office of Student Enrichment fulfilled 463 requests totaling nearly $150,000, and last year expanded to help more than 600 students.

The director of the Office of Student Enrichment, Consuela Wilson, says, “I believe the University has really stepped up in putting its money where its mouth is, in terms of trying to affect the sense of belonging for students who are of low socioeconomic status.”