With just 58% of students earning a college degree within six years, there are now more college dropouts than high school dropouts in the United States. These young adults are leaving college campuses with debt, but without a degree. For students from under-resourced families who are also the first in their family to go to college the numbers are more stark—just 11% are earning a college degree.
A recent Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers learning session explored the challenges that many students in our region face in the journey to and through college, the key supports and services that help students thrive in college, what quality looks like in such programs, and how philanthropy can effectively engage to ensure everyone has the opportunity for postsecondary success.
Elizabeth Morgan of the National College Access Network (NCAN) kicked off the conversation sharing national statistics and the limits of information available regionally around college access and competition.
Crimsonbridge Foundation Executive Director Danielle Reyes then moderated a panel discussion with nonprofit leaders Amma Felix, President of Collegiate Directions, Julie Green, Executive Director of New Futures, and Nicole Lynn Lewis, CEO of Generation Hope. All three of these organizations are members of the College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative. This initiative serves as a partnership between Crimsonbridge, the Scheidel Foundation, and six nonprofits to share ideas, learn from successes and mistakes, and partner to solve issues. The nonprofit partners in the C3 Initiative, including the three represented in the panel, act to support and eliminate barriers facing first-generation and under-resourced students. Collegiate Directions supports students financially, academically, and culturally throughout high school and into post-grad life. New Futures focuses on aiding under-served students through certifications and community colleges with scholarships, academic advising, and career coaching. Generation Hope, provides mentoring, resources, and services to help teen parents become college graduates and their children enter kindergarten at higher levels of school readiness.
The conversation focused on topics such as capacity building opportunities within the organizations, the importance and role of current and prospective partnerships, and barriers facing students. The panelists shared how each of their organizations would benefit from strengthened partnerships with colleges and universities and involvement from state-level representatives. Nicole emphasized the significance of having available completion funds, or flexible money, for students who need emergency financial assistance in order to continue with their college education. And finally, all three of the panelists agreed that communications work is key in changing the narrative so that the students are viewed as young adults with a right to a college education and the resources necessary to complete their college education.
Overall, the conversation imparted the message that financial investments do not support these students alone, but that the personal support of mentors, partners, colleges and universities, funders, and policy-makers are all instrumental in determining the future of a young adult striving to complete their education.