At MTA we believe we ought to make academia inclusive, without compromising our rigor. To that end, strategic investment is needed throughout the course of one's education.
Transition to college is a critical process which poses an obstacle for many Arab youth, explaining much of the gap in educational attainment between Jews and Arabs. To encourage Arab youth to pursue higher education and facilitate their transition, MTA opens for participants a holistic guided process, starting with interventions to high school students, including: proactive outreach through information sessions, orientation days, and preparation workshops, as well as offering personal consulting and assistance by Arab MTA students, who serve as role models.
Over the past 3 years we have been carrying out the pilot of a new transition-to-college program, unparalleled by any other program in Israel. Prepping for the Future is a one-year pre-college 'boot-camp', preparing Arab high-school graduates for academic studies at MTA. The program offers a comprehensive package of services tackling different barriers to college admissions:
- Academic barriers: due to the substandard Arab education system, high-school graduates lack important knowledge and have underdeveloped academic skills, which we build with intensive teaching of English, math and stats, tutoring, and gradual exposure introductory academic content.
- Language barriers: most Arab high-school graduates are not sufficiently proficient in Hebrew, and residents of 'mixed-cities' (like Jaffa) are doubly disadvantaged, having poor Arabic skills as well. A preparatory year-long, paced-out teaching in Hebrew improves participants' academic Hebrew.
- Cultural barriers influence students' access to college (pre-academic courses are unadapted for Arab students) and retention at majority-Jewish institutions. MTA's support network includes counseling, personal mentoring by MTA Arab students, social activities to foster a sense of group and belonging, and the availability of Arab academic and administrative staff on campus.
- Systemic barriers: Lack of familiarity with the Israeli system of higher education, and the biased structure of the psychometric exam (a test heavily weighted as a component of admission), pose a barrier to admission. MTA's special orientation workshops prepare participants for studies at a majority-Jewish academic environment; in addition, all participants who successfully complete the program are admitted to MTA's regular B.A. programs without a psychometric score.
- Socio-economic barriers pose serious financial difficulties, making education unaffordable. MTA waives tuition fees for all participants of Prepping for the Future.
The program's pilot, currently in its concluding year, has proven successful beyond prediction. 60% of all participants have so far followed through to undergraduate degrees at MTA. Ongoing interest in the program demonstrates that we have begun to transform the value and merit of academic studies as a resource for mobility in the eyes of Arab youth and the community at large, and we at MTA hope to expand the program to cater to a larger group of participants.
Most supporting services (mentoring, counseling), as well as scholarships or financial aid packages, are available to Arab students during their undergraduate studies as well, in order to increase retention and graduation rates.