Through UBS NextGen Leaders, UBS's signature Americas education initiative, and in partnership with the Tennessee College Access and Success Network (TCASN) and Discovery Education, UBS commits to build a technology portal that will establish an online professional community of college access and admissions professionals. This community will connect high-potential, lower-income, and first-generation college-goers with institutions that are a good fit. The portal will expand the access professionals' network and strengthen their effectiveness by increasing the number of colleges to which their students can apply. Admissions officers will gain an expanded pipeline of lower-income, first-generation students from which to recruit.
Students will be invited by access professionals to create a profile on the site which contains key information and a storyboard highlighting their value to college campuses. Access professionals will be able to search institution profiles and connect students to recruiters at colleges that focus on supporting and retaining lower-income, first-generation students.
Two possible challenges are 1) adoption of the portal by prospective users, and 2) varying levels of knowledge of effective college matching among access and admissions professionals. UBS will address the adoption challenge by ensuring high user experience in the design, leveraging each partner's broad network, and executing a marketing campaign to communicate the value and quality of the users on the site. To address the second, UBS will ensure all users have a baseline of understanding by implementing a knowledge-based assessment of the college matching process that must be passed before gaining access to the portal, and providing resources on the portal to increase college matching proficiency.
UBS is contributing resources for the project as a part of its UBS NextGen Leaders initiative, TCASN will provide content based on their expertise in professional development and networks in the college access and success space, and Discovery Education, a part of Discovery Communications, will build the portal and leverage their network of 3.5 million educators and over ten years of experience as a leader in digital learning.
A robust work plan is in place for the pilot and national roll-out with specific deliverables and target numbers. Numbers below are based on projected plans, which UBS will be tracking closely and may be adjusted during the pilot phase.
Pilot Phase 06/15/2015 02/28/2016
Technology Design, Build, and Launch
SpringSummer 2015: Portal design and build
Summer 2015: Official Announcement of portal
End Summer 2015: Beta version of the portal launches in Tennessee and select U.S. markets
Fall 2015: Pilot version of the portal launches in Tennessee and select U.S. markets; aiming for 200 students, 50 higher education admissions recruiters, and 50 college access professionals
Partnerships, User Identification, and Implementation
Fall 2015: Pilot users complete knowledge assessment to ensure a baseline of understanding, and review training resources
Summer 2015Fall 2016: Additional college access organizations identified and invited to participate
Spring 2016: Class of 2017 (high school juniors) profiles created, additional 200 students added (400 total)
Spring 2016: Class of 2016 (high school seniors) makes college attendance choices
Fall 2016: Class of 2016 enrolls in college; data analysis of enrollment behavior conducted
Research and Evaluation
Winter 2016: Initial analysis conducted of data for pilot students in class of 2016 (high school seniors)
Winter 2016: Updates to platform implemented based on initial pilot data
Second Phase 03/01/2016 06/30/2018
Nationwide Roll Out
Winter 2016: National version of the portal launches
Spring 2016: Additional 150 higher education admissions recruiters (200 total) and 150 (200 total) college access professionals complete knowledge assessment and review training resources
Spring 2017: Class of 2018 (high school juniors) profiles created, additional 1,600 students added (2,000 total)
Spring 2017: Class of 2017 (high school seniors) makes college attendance choices
Spring 2017: Additional 100 (300 total) college access professionals complete knowledge assessment and review training resources
Summer 2017: Initial analysis of national launch begins; longitudinal data tracking on student outcomes continues past the term of the commitment
Spring 2018: Class of 2019 (high school juniors) profiles created, additional 1,600 students added (3,600 total)
Spring 2018: Class of 2018 (high school seniors) makes college attendance choices
Fall 2018: Analysis of national launch continues; longitudinal data tracking on student outcomes continues past the term of the commitment
The benefits of a college degree for individuals and for society are well-documented in the U.S. The median earnings of bachelor's degree recipients are 65 percent higher than those of high school graduates (College Board 2013). College attainment increases the tax base and civic engagement, and reduces crime and the need for social services (Carroll 2009). However, lower-income and first-generation college-goers have historically faced challenges in graduating from college. One in 10 people from low-income families have attained a bachelor's degree by age 25 versus half of people from high-income families (Bailey 2011). This achievement gap significantly impacts economic potential: when children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution receive a four-year degree, they nearly quadruple their chances of making it the top fifth; their chances of making it out of the bottom fifth increase by more than 50 percent (Isaacs 2008).
Factors contributing to low college graduation rates among lower-income, first-generation college students include failing to apply to a good-fit college, which can provide vital support services. These students end up attending less selective institutions (Hoxby 2013; Bowen 2009), increasing the likelihood they will not graduate (Carnevale 2014). When students apply to more selective schools, they are more likely to graduate from college and have higher lifetime earnings (Carnevale 2014).
UBS and the Tennessee College Access and Success Network engaged more than 100 professionals in the college access field, and three key learnings emerged: (1) students, especially first-generation students, are overwhelmed by the amount of college information and have difficulty determining which sources to trust; (2) admissions recruiters often miss recruiting these students using traditional techniques and are unable to identify them until they apply; and (3) while there is an informal network of college access professionals and admissions recruiters that collaborate to link lower-income and first-generation students to colleges, this process varies in its effectiveness and geographic reach.
The initiative seeks funders with like-minded goals of increasing college success for the targeted student population and who may have an interest in co-investment, for example, funding in-person enhanced professional development, data analytics, etc.
TCASN will provide resources related to the college matching process for partner colleges and access organizations, and will partner with Discovery Education to provide data reporting on student outcomes.
UBS will share research and student outcomes in order to improve and inform college matching for lower-income, first-generation college students.