Increasing college graduation rates among low-income, first-generation college students and students of color is a top priority for the United States, Illinois and for Associated Colleges of Illinois. To accomplish this goal, ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program supports students who arrive at ACI member institutions with risk factors that could prevent them from staying in school and reaching graduation. To counter those risks -– from financial and educational inequities to lack of family experience with higher education — ACI matches these freshmen with trained peer mentors recruited from sophomores, juniors and seniors who faced similar challenges as freshmen.

In academic year 2021-22, Peer Mentoring will serve 156 students, including 130 mentees and 26 mentors at 12 ACI member institutions in urban, suburban and rural communities across Illinois. By building a “relationship bridge” between mentees, mentors, the campus community and its support services, ACI’s Peer Mentoring provides an early warning system that can anticipate and address the specific challenges these students face – before those challenges derail a student’s college career.

ACI’s Peer Mentoring operates as follows:

  • Incoming freshmen are selected as mentees because they face potential academic, social or financial risk factors. They are matched with peer mentors of similar backgrounds to mentees who have achieved academic success, have built strong campus connections and who model behaviors considered to be critical elements of student success.
  • Each peer mentor provides ongoing support to five freshman mentees throughout the academic year. Guided by campus coordinators, peer mentors develop individual success action plans matched to each mentees specific needs. Then they provide mentees with support and encouragement to achieve their plans. They also work with campus coordinators to develop activities and services that support mentees’ progress and persistence by staying in school.
  • Peer mentors earn a $2,000 performance-based scholarship for each year they participate. They are expected to attend professional development activities offered by ACI and their campus to build their mentoring skills.
  • Mentees enjoy a close and ongoing relationship with their mentors, benefit from activities and services designed to promote persistence and success in college. They also may access an emergency fund to meet unanticipated needs, including the cost of books, family emergencies and other unexpected expenses.

The 12 ACI Peer Mentoring campuses in 2021-22 are:

You can provide critical support to ACI’s Peer Mentoring with a targeted gift to Associated Colleges of Illinois:

$5,500: Funds a Peer Mentoring team for one year at an ACI member campus

$2,000: Provides an ACI peer mentor with a one-year scholarship in exchange for helping younger students stay in college and succeed

$1,500: Funds a campus coordinator to nurture mentors and mentees

$500: Provides program activities and emergency funds for one freshman mentee

$400: Funds training for one mentor

Make your gift.

If you have questions about ACI’s Peer Mentoring, contact Program Director Constance Willoughby at

Did You Know?

  • Although nearly 70 percent of U.S. high school seniors enroll in college within two years of high school graduation, only about 57 percent complete degrees within six years.
  • Outcomes for minority students are even less encouraging: Only 36 percent of black young adults and 43 percent of Latinos who enroll in college complete degree programs in a timely fashion.
  • Poverty affects educational outcomes even more than race. Students from the highest income families are almost eight times as likely as those from the lowest income families to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24.
  • Illinois’ educational attainment gap is one of the nation’s worst. Of 100 Illinois students who enter 9th grade, only 76 graduate from high school, 42 enter college, and only 28 remain in college beyond freshman year.
  • Illinois’ white students are 28 percent more likely to go to college than blacks or Latinos.
  • College participation for Illinois’ low-income students has dropped 5 percent in the past 10 years.
  • Only 52 percent of Chicago Public Schools alumni go on to college, most who do choose colleges mismatched to their academic profiles and with poor retention rates.
  • ACI member colleges and universities graduate low-income and minority students at higher rates than do Illinois public institutions or other Illinois private colleges and universities.


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Associated Colleges of Illinois is a not-for-profit corporation exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions are tax deductible as provided by law. ©2022 Associated Colleges of Illinois

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