MXL grants discontinued

A closer look at the decision to discontinue the Muhlenberg Extended Learning (MXL) Grants Program.

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A sign requesting mask use remains on a door in Trumbower Hall. Photo by Photo Editor Kira Bretsky '27

On Jan. 17,  Gretchen Gotthard, Ph.D., dean of academic life, sent out a campus-wide email announcing the discontinuation of the Muhlenberg Extended Learning (MXL) Grants Program. First implemented in the Summer of 2020, it was created during the pandemic as a need-based program for Muhlenberg students to catch up on credits due to COVID-19 disruptions. Whether these were due to illnesses within the family, personal experiences with COVID-19, or incoming first-year students who wanted to get a head start on their studies, the program proved to be a boon for students at that time.

Rebekkah L. Brown ’99, vice president for advancement, explained that “the pandemic was disruptive to the educational journey of many students at Muhlenberg, and by taking a course over the summer without additional costs, students could either catch up or get ahead on their studies.” 

Brown went on to further explain that “the benefit of the program was that it allowed students to take a course over the summer at Muhlenberg, either in person or online, at no cost to the student, to support their success and continued enrollment.”

With the program coming to an end, these grants were last awarded in the summer of 2023. Since its formation, close to 350 individual students have made use of the grant to further their educational journey. Having taken a class through the MXL Grants Program, Victoria Brady ‘25 mentioned how she “used it the summer before my freshman year for Literature and Film. I would say it’s definitely helped me now, as I don’t have that GAR to fulfill, so it took a lot of pressure off my plate.” Brady also mentioned how “because it was such a small class, one of the other students I was in the class with is my roommate now, which was very cool. I definitely would not have met her and become her close friend if I didn’t take the class.”

Despite these clear benefits, Brown highlighted the reasoning behind the College’s decision to discontinue the program, explaining that “the program was always intended to be temporary support in response to the pandemic. Data from the 2020 MXL Grant Program show that students who were awarded MXLs and those who applied for MXL grants but were not funded, both graduated on time at statistically the same rate and similar to rates from before COVID.” Explaining an apparent change in priorities, Brown said that “donors have now turned their interest to supporting the College in other ways — scholarships, professorships, construction projects on campus, study abroad programs, internship support and student/faculty research to name a few.”

Yet, the roots of this program were already taking hold way before the pandemic itself. In a previous interview with the Office of Communications in June 2020, Melissa Falk ‘92, then dean of admissions and financial aid, mentioned that discussions about such a program were already taking place in February 2020 with the School of Continuing Studies. “Prior to COVID, [MXL] was related to engaging students and solidifying the connection to the College. Building relationships with faculty and peers in a class is one way for students to connect and identify as Muhlenberg students,” Falk said. Explaining in the context of fundraising for this grant, the article goes on to highlight that these “donors were interested in MXL because it works toward the dual goals of enrollment and retention.”
The decision to discontinue the MXL grant is slightly puzzling given the college’s decline in student enrollment and subsequent budget cuts. This has led to some questioning whether or not the ability to finance such a program played a role in the decision-making process. In response, Brown re-emphasized that the “program was always intended to be temporary, and the assessment studies do not support significant enough outcomes to continue.”

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