The Challenges of College Access and Success

On May 23, 2012, Let’s Get Ready, an organization focused on improving college access among disadvantaged youth hosted an event called, “The Challenges of College Access and Success.” Held at the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, the event featured panelists Wendy Ault, Executive Director of the MELMAC Foundation; Janice Bonanno, Associate Vice President for Student Services at Bunker Hill Community College; Mary Bourque, Superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools; Greg Darnieder, Assistant and Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the Secretary’s Initiative on College Access; and Nicholas Donohue, President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. The panel was moderated by David Marcus, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former education columnist for U.S. News & World Report.

The panelists and moderator discussed a wide range of challenges to improving college access for low income, underrepresented youth. Issues discussed included fostering the aspirations of youth to dream to attend and complete college, to improving high school students’ familiarity with the “culture of college”, to basic elements like ensuring all students complete a FAFSA form before completing high school, and supporting students as they complete their college applications.

One of the more controversial topics examined was whether ALL students need a college degree to be successful. Panelists wavered on this issue. Some did not think that it was absolutely necessary for all students to attend college in order to be successful; however, one panelist pointed out that while it may not be necessary for some students, for students who live in poverty, a college degree is a “passport to opportunity and future wealth.”

In summary, the event showed how complex the topic of college readiness is for policymakers, practitioners, and students alike. The challenges transcend the institutions of colleges, schools, and guidance offices to a student’s home life, community support and financial resources. Clearly, addressing the complexity of existing challenges to ensure students are college ready and enter college does not call for a one-size-fits-all type of intervention, policy, or program.

For more information about the event please see: http://www.letsgetready.org/Resources/BostonBriefing

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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