The University of Iowa is joining 15 of the nation’s most prominent universities in a new effort to help students from rural areas enroll  and succeed in college.

Brent Gage, in the U-I’s enrollment management office, says the STARS College Network, STARS for Small-Town And Rural Students, will strive to create new pathways to higher education for students who might not otherwise recognize the full range of opportunities available to them.

Gage says, “It brings some of the nation’s top universities together to provide a place for students from rural communities to learn, how does the admissions process work and how can I dream a big dream about maybe going to an institution that has a very complex and intricate admissions process?” The network includes Brown University, Cal Tech, USC, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Columbia, Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gage says the nationwide program is designed to empower students to find the best institution for them, whether or not they ultimately choose to enroll at Iowa. “This effort is really to provide a free resource to say, ‘Hey, we’re here to help. What questions do you have and how can we help guide you through that process?'” Gage says. “So, not only can a student from California work with the network to come and study at the University of Iowa, but if a student from a small town in Iowa always dreamed of going to MIT, this network can help explain how to get there.”

The U-I will be working with guidance counselors, principals and other administrators in high schools across Iowa to get the word out. Gage says it’s the university’s mission to open new doors for students throughout the state. “For a lot of students, they just don’t have the resources to be able to crack the code on how this works,” Gage says. “This is a benefit for us because Iowa is going to be exposed to students from all over the country that maybe didn’t know a lot about our great institution, while learning about all of these other places that are providing these resources and support.”

One element of the program will bring students from rural communities to campus over summer break to help them prepare academically and for college life. All programming is free to students who register with STARS. Learn more at:

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