Photo of CWRU students meeting in a space at Kelvin Smith Library

Case Western Reserve joins new partnership encouraging students from small towns, rural areas to learn more about higher education options

STARS College Network launches with $20 million gift from Chicago-based Trott Family Philanthropies

Case Western Reserve University today announced that it has joined more than a dozen leading academic institutions in a national effort to raise awareness of higher education opportunities for students from small towns and rural areas.

Known as the STARS College Network, the initiative is supported by Trott Family Philanthropies, a Chicago-based foundation launched by Byron and Tina Trott. 

“There is a massive talent pool in our small towns and rural communities that has so much to offer—to our colleges, to society, and to future generations,” said Byron Trott, who himself grew up in a Missouri town of roughly 5,000 people. “These smaller communities simply don’t have the resources to help show these students what is possible and help them get there. Collaborative partnerships like STARS and rootEd* not only help to turn the tide—they have a multiplier effect that can catalyze far greater change than any single institution or agency could make on its own.” 

The network includes Brown University, California Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve University, Colby College, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, University of Chicago, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University.

STARS is also teaming up with Khan Academy and the non-profit tutoring platform Schoolhouse to offer a free, online math curriculum and peer tutoring for students in small towns and rural communities, leading to certification of mastery in calculus—an important credential for admission to more selective colleges and universities that is not available from all high schools. 

The universities participating in the STARS effort hope to assist students from small towns and rural areas in learning more about educational opportunities available to them while in high school—as well as the breadth of post-secondary options beyond their immediate communities.

“No student should miss the opportunity to apply to a campus that could be a great fit simply because their high school lacks resources to help them become aware of it,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Rick Bischoff said. “The STARS College Network represents another important step towards increasing equity across the application and admissions process, and we are pleased to be among its inaugural members.”

Students can learn more and participate in STARS programs at

*Trott Family Philanthropies also supports the RootED Alliance, which provides college and career advising—as well as other support—to high school students in rural areas.