Arrupe College Jacky Cruz

“Everyone at Arrupe is super welcoming and understanding. If you have any issues, you can talk it out at any time of the day.”

Transferring from one college to another can be a struggle, regardless of the circumstances. New campus, unfamiliar classmates, fresh expectations. When Jacky Cruz arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, just weeks after graduating from Arrupe College with her associate’s degree, in 2017, she felt completely disoriented. She’d never spent much time away from her close-knit Mexican-American family in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. (No summer camp, no school trips.) She knew hardly anything about Wisconsin culture. The state’s flagship campus was huge, too, and the student body richer and whiter than anywhere she’d studied previously. Cruz spent her first semester chained to a biology textbook, alternately cramming and crying from stress late at night. “Oh my god, it was so terrible!” she says. “It was such a slap to the face.”

Cruz escaped that biology class with a C. Afterwards, she regrouped, reminding herself of her own resolve. Though it felt seamless in retrospect, Cruz remembered that her transition to Arrupe (from Lane Tech High School) had not been without its bumps, either. Her Arrupe coursework—especially her writing classes—was demanding. “Because it was a new school,” Cruz says, “we were definitely the guinea pigs.” She also worked full-time for AT&T during the school year, saving as much cash as she could muster in case she needed to fund her last two undergraduate years on her own.

She’d first heard about Arrupe after dialing Loyola University Chicago’s admissions office to explain that, because of the tuition price, she was denying their acceptance letter. The person on the other end of the phone tipped her off about a new, two-year school that was taking students. Intrigued, Cruz attended a slew of open houses and bombarded administrators with questions, trying to figure out exactly how higher education operated and if Arrupe was the right fit for her.

What Arrupe ended up providing was thorough and consistent academic guidance. “Everyone at Arrupe is super welcoming and understanding,” she says. “If you have any issues, you can talk it out at any time of the day.” In Madison, Cruz decided to build a replica of that support system for herself, as best she could. She canvassed for the proper advisor, auditioning people from different disciplines with whom she had no previous connections. She wasn't shy about asking for extra homework help or in seeking out scholarship assistance and tips for improving her study patterns. There was trial and error involved, to be sure. But her grades and her confidence improved quickly.

This spring, Cruz graduated with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation psychology. After taking the year to work, she’ll pursue graduate school in public policy. Ultimately, she’d like to find a job where she can advocate for disabled people in Chicago’s Latinx community. It’s a dream that might have fizzled if Cruz had never placed that difficult phone call to Loyola. “Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I came to Wisconsin from the beginning, for my freshman year,” she says. “I feel like I would have been lost and intimidated, and maybe even put off by the idea of going to university at all.”

The Big Picture

In its first five years, Arrupe has continued to evolve—and transform lives

Asya Meadows

Building her future at her new school, Loyola University Chicago

Blanca Rodriguez

Managing a blur of commitments, at Arrupe and beyond

Brandon Thomas

Finding his way, to help others eventually do the same

A new school

Launched in 2015, Arrupe College is a two-year associate’s degree program that provides a rigorous liberal arts education to motivated students with limited financial resources and an interest in attending a four-year institution. In 2017, the first class graduated with an associate's degree. This spring, 47 percent of that first class earned their bachelor’s degree in four years—two years after they walked at Arrupe's inaugural commencement. An additional 37 percent is on track to graduate by the end of the year. Learn more about Arrupe from its dean and executive director and how to apply.