Getting to college: for some kids it’s a goal from preschool onward, reinforced by family expectations and experience. For others, it’s a new idea as they would be the first in their families to go beyond high school. How can schools (and society) support students who have the capacity for college, but not the background that makes it an auto-pilot path?
Three stories this week look at different ways of encouraging kids to consider and get ready for college success. Jim McCorkell, founder of College Possible (formerly Admission Possible), highlighted the obstacles in an MPR interview: for students whose family income is $38,000 or lower, the rate of completing a four-year degree is only eight percent, while more than 80 percent of students from the upper income complete college within six years of high school graduation.
McCorkell’s College Possible succeeds in getting lower-income students into colleges:
But what we do is take these recent college graduates, pair them with a group of low income students in the students’ junior and senior year. Then the students meet with their we call these AmeriCorps members their coach.
They really function like a middle class parent, as I was say earlier. They meet twice a week after school for the junior and senior year with a lot of weekend work, a lot of campus visits, and a lot of practice for the ACT exam. In all, it’s about 320 hours of time on task over those two years. It’s really intensive. …
In our case, what’s been really exciting for us is that we are increasingly seeing a lot of people who went through our program as low income students, went off to college, graduated, and are now coming back to serve others, and oftentimes in the same school they attended. …
Since we started 12 years ago, 98 percent of all kids who have ever come through our program have earned admission to college. Almost all of those kids enroll in college. Then, of those kids that have enrolled in college, nearly 80 percent have either graduated or are persisting toward their degree.
From its Twin Cities beginning, College Possible has expanded to Milwaukee and Omaha, and now reaches about 9,000 students per year. It is on track for further expansion. (If you can, read or listen to the entire MPR interview with McCorkell — it has fascinating insights into his life and career, as well as more information on College Possible, and it’s good news in a time when we could all use a little hope.)
Previous TCDP coverage of College Possible
In an article in the Star Tribune, Maria Elena Baca focused on another college-prep program for lower-income students, tracing the success of AVID in Anoka-Hennepin. The Advancement Via Individual Determination program is used in more than 30 Minnesota school districts and more than 900 across the country. Another Star Tribune article described a new University of Minnesota-developed program, Ramp Up for Readiness, which will pilot in about 40 schools.
College Possible demonstrates that it is possible to get students from low-income families into college and give them the preparation and tools they need to succeed. That, said McCorkell, will decisively break the cycle of poverty for those students and future generations. It’s a goal and a success worth celebrating and supporting in this graduation season.
(Want to learn more about College Possible, or to offer support? Here’s their website.)