There is so much to love about the story in this article, A New Push to Get Low-Income Students Through College – NYTimes.com, today:
- Wealth, thoughtfully used to make the US stronger through helping low-income families: Michael Bloomberg (whose net worth is 33 Billion) is funding an initiative to holistically help highly capable students go to college.
- More than money: Advice, encouragement, pre-screened information, role models are all packaged together!
- Significant enough to make an impact on the country: Though they expect to get 10,000 students into college per year, they will reach out to 70,000 per year total. Just the attention,recognition and basic information will have an impact on that full set of students and their families. And over time, the students who do go to college will be beacons of knowledge and role models in their communities. You may remember an earlier post cited studies that show that low-income families rarely consider a school unless they know someone who attended it.
Here are some excerpts from the story by David Leonhardt:
Today, only about one in three top-performing students from the bottom half of the income distribution a ttends a college with a high six-year graduation rate (at least 70 percent).
Within five years, the Bloomberg coalition wants to raise that to one in every two students.
The crux of the new effort will be college counselors, available to advise students on where and how to apply, both for admission and for financial aid. The coalition – which includes Kha n Academy, the College Board, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and others – will ultimately hire 130 full-time counselors and enlist 4,000 college students as part-time advisers. Using video chat, email, telephone and text, they will mimic the support network — composed of guidance counselors, teachers, parents and friends — that more affluent high-school students take for granted.
Previous research has found that basic information about college, along with application-fee waivers, can change the behavior of low-income students who wrongly assume many colleges are beyond their reach.
It is reaching out to as many as 70,000 students a year and trying to persuade more than 10,000 of them to change their behavior by attending any one of 250 colleges where low-income students graduate at a high rate and with manageable debt. Those colleges include elite private universities as well as state universities like Stony Brook, Iowa, Purdue, North Carolina State, Illinois State and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Yes, the country needs to worry about improving the quality of its K-12 education and about lifting graduation rates at colleges where dropping out is the norm. But the students who have overcome the odds to graduate from high school with stellar records can’t wait for those changes.
They are graduating into a tough economy – and one in which the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is at a record high. They’ve earned the right to succeed, even if their success won’t solve all of our problems.