As tuition fees at colleges and universities continue to rise, affordability remains a barrier for students seeking post-secondary degrees.
In an effort to ease financial tensions, College Promise – a campaign to eliminate the cost of tuition and fees – emerged.
Through a partnership with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in 2019, College Promise has worked to adapt the "one-size-fits-all" model to target more specific student populations.
As part of their "Depicting the Ecosystems of Support and Financial Sustainability for College Promise Populations" initiative, research teams have designed College Promise programs to meet the financial needs of five groups, including first-generation college students, youth in or out foster care, students with disabilities, student parents and students who need academic support.
After years of development, the teams presented their findings at the College Promise and ETS organized the 'Expanding Promise Symposium' that took place on Wednesday.
"We know there are many millions of these students that we serve and we want to do better," said Dr. Martha Kanter, CEO of College Promise. “We know that new funding models and strategies are desperately needed for pledge programs and their partners to dramatically improve transitions into, through and beyond the university.”
Starting with first-generation college students, who represent 35% of undergraduate students in the United States, the survey uncovered five barriers, including return on investment, work and home commitments, cultural capital and navigation skills, bureaucratic structures, and educational inequalities.
To address these issues, Adnan Bokhari, chief operating officer of the National Immigration Law Center, suggested implementing broadband and portable Wi-Fi nationwide, as well as offering soft skills development and paid internships to improve career readiness.
Financially, there must first be a general mindset shift to a "we can, we must, now" approach, he said.
"If the pandemic has taught us one thing or shown us one thing, it is that if we know what is at stake, we are willing to put the resources behind it and make it a priority," Bokhari added. ready. “We have developed many vaccines in record time. We need to look at our first generation of students with that urgency or some sense of urgency.”
He also recommended multi-year financial commitments, developing partnerships with the private sector, strengthening existing resources and making funding unrestricted.
To help youth in foster care or the elderly, who often have difficulties navigating the schooling process, the team emphasized the need to establish targeted campus programs to address basic needs, provide social and emotional support and collaborate. with local child welfare agencies .
At the federal level, Dr. Angelique Day, associate professor of social work at the University of Washington, calls for achieving the 2019 Fostering Success in Higher Education and expanding the Pell scholarship limit from 12 to 14 semesters.
In addition to paying tuition, students with disabilities face bills for medications, equipment, therapy, and transportation. Institutions also bear the costs of personnel, technology, resources and services and campus accessibility.
Richard Allegra, associate director of education and outreach services at the National Center for College Students with Disabilities, reiterated the need to increase federal Pell scholarships and develop more available scholarships.
“Due to their disabilities, some students have to attend school part-time,” he said. “They are not capable of carrying a full caseload. If they go part-time, their funding is reduced to part-time. We really encourage policy makers to look at those kinds of policies to allow a person, because of their disability, to get full funding.”
Student parents – representing nearly four million students – also face additional financial barriers due to childcare costs.
In addition to investing in enveloping services, Dr. Nate Johnson, owner and principal advisor of Postsecondary Analytics LLC, recommends using current incentive funding to better support student parents.
Finally, in order to support the 'ecosystem' for students in need of academic support, re-evaluate placement tests, provide high-quality orientation, and invest in data systems to improve counseling.
While many presenters emphasized the need for federal and state government funding, philanthropists also play a role because of their ability to create visibility, connections, and policy advocacy.
LaVerne Srinivasan, vice president of national programs at New York's Carnegie Corporation, said local communities and institutions must be called upon to ensure that education is central.
"We know a lot about what works," she added. “We know a lot about how to meet the diverse needs of students, but we have to have the determination to do it. I think we need to be unequivocal and determined to get the results we want for these populations of students that have been historically and persistently understaffed.”
Sarah Wood can be reached at [email protected]