College Possible makes college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. The organization connects low-income students to idealistic and motivated young people who dedicate a year of service to College Possible through AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps member serves as a coach who provides mentorship and guidance, helps the student understand the confusing path to college admission and persistence, and breaks down the higher education system into manageable and understandable pieces. College Possible was the first in the nation to use this model and prove its effectiveness via a Harvard RCT evaluation. The near-peer mentors, or those mentors close in age to the mentees, provide a relatable and powerful example to low-income youth that a college degree is in fact possible with the right direction and support.
Millions of low-income students stand to benefit from the power and promise of the College Possible program, but are currently receiving no help from external organizations
As a result, College Possible commitment is to focus on capacity-building of colleges rather than direct service. This program will enable colleges and universities to better support low-income students from matriculation through graduation. By partnering with College Possible, a given college or university will receive support to incorporate College Possibles proven curriculum into their own infrastructure. Through its loyal and longstanding partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service from which it was recently awarded over $2 million in funding, College Possible will train and support its post-secondary partners in hiring and managing AmeriCorps near-peer coaches who are recent college graduates, thus optimizing colleges high-quality existing staff to implement the College Possible model. This strategy has the potential to rapidly scale College Possibles proven model, dramatically impact the college degree attainment rates of low-income students, and ignite systems change across the higher education sector.
Year One (July 2016 June 2017):
In year one, College Possible will focus on optimizing pilot efforts on four campuses (St. Cloud State University,Augsburg College, College of St. Benedict/St. Johns University, University of Nebraska - Omaha Pilot) which will yield useful insights around how different college archetypes respond to the model. Work on these campuses will focus on development of robust learning plans for validating and refining College Possibles approach (e.g., curriculum content and delivery, predictive analytics, coach recruitment and support, etc.).
Key activities and campaigns throughout the year include coach recruitment (summer), student recruitment (summer / fall), course registration (winter and spring) transition to college life (fall), and FAFSA renewal (spring). Workshops and coaching on other topics such as financial literacy and study skills will take place throughout the year, along with experimental interventions (e.g., peer networking groups) to address key student challenges. In the spring, College Possible will do an in-depth analysis of key outcomes to identify opportunities to refine and improve its approach. College Possible expects to serve at least 400 students across these four campuses during year one. The organization anticipates having a total of nine permanent staff members and 18 AmeriCorps members on this team by the end of F17.
In year two (July 2017 June 2018), College Possible anticipates adding at least one additional pilot campus and reaching a total of at least 1,000 students with pilot programming across the five campuses. The strategic growth team will incorporate learning from the first year into its pilot program offering and design new tests and measures to evaluate the impact of these changes. The team will also explore investing in a technology platform for data management as well as predictive analytics, which will help to identify students at risk and intervene effectively.
While the U.S. is making strides toward equality across nearly all sectors, higher education outcomes are increasingly inequitable. For students in the bottom income quartile, degree attainment rates have virtually stagnated, from 6% in 1970 to 9% in 2013, whereas their peers in the highest income quartile have seen rates soar, from 40% in 1970 to 77% in 2013 (Pell Institute, 2015). On average, only one low-income student earns a college degree for every nine affluent students earning degrees. A college degree is widely agreed to be the most likely path out of poverty. Studies have found that children in the bottom fifth of income distribution quadruple their chances of landing in the top fifth of income distribution simply by earning a college degree (Haskins, Isaacs, & Sawhill, 2008). Furthermore, workers with a bachelors degree can expect to earn over $1 million more than high school graduates in their lifetime (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). Postsecondary education is also increasingly important for community and economic prosperity. By 2020, 65% of all jobs will require some post-secondary training, up from 28% in 1973. At this rate, without significant efforts to increase post-secondary training, the U.S. workforce will be unable to fill and meet the demand for over five million skilled workers by 2020 (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2013).
In addition, the dramatic increase in the number of students on college campuses further complicates the challenge of improving degree attainment rates. The percentage of low-income students attending college has grown from 25% in 2003-2004 to 38% in 2013-2014 (Chaplot, Cooper, Johnstone & Karandjeff, 2015). Despite this, fewer than 25% of low-income students who actually make it to college earn their degree within six years (Pell Institute, 2015), and less than 7% of the 2.4 million low-income students on college campuses are being served by external organizations that provide services low-income students need to thrive and graduate (NCES, 2015).