News: College Access & Success

Get2College Program to Create College-Going Culture Shows Promising Early Results

Wednesday, January 30, 2019  
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As a part of the Get2College Pilot School Program, students participate in college campus tours. Above, students from O’Bannon High School visit Jackson State University in January.

By guest blogger Courtney Lange, Director of Communications and Impact at the Woodward Hines Education Foundation

For many Mississippi high school students, going to college to earn a postsecondary degree or credential seems out of reach. Under-resourced schools, financial barriers, and a lack of college planning advice at home often leave graduating seniors without a clear pathway.

Get2College, a program of NCAN member Woodward Hines Education Foundation, is working to change that by providing services in schools and at three centers spread throughout Mississippi.

The program offers direct college planning services to students and families including one-on-one FAFSA completion assistance, ACT prep courses, college planning timeline appointments, career assessments, and more. Get2College also works directly with high school counselors, providing free professional development in the areas of FAFSA completion, financial aid education, and ACT instructor training; and with parents, offering seminars geared toward providing parents with the resources needed to plan, prepare, and pay for their child’s next step. Get2College hosts in-school events for students, including onsite FAFSA completion events, college application workshops, and signing days.

To work more intensely in eight Mississippi high schools to create a college-going culture, Get2College launched the Get2College Pilot School Program in 2015. The program is a direct extension of the work done in its three centers. The ultimate goal of the Pilot School Program is to provide quality college admissions and financial aid coaching; create more opportunities for students to go on college tours; increase ACT participation and improve student scores; increase the number of students who apply to college; and increase completion of FAFSA and state aid applications.

The program uses best practices identified by NCAN to move the needle on the number of students going to and getting through college by working with the entire school community, including parents, teachers, counselors, students, and school leaders. As a part of the program, Get2College staff members work closely with school leaders to provide individualized college advising and activities including college tours, ACT workshops, college application days, and FAFSA completion events.

The program currently serves eight urban and rural schools of varying sizes. To gauge the effects of the program, each of the schools was matched with comparable control schools by the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Mississippi State University, which is conducting a review of the Pilot School Program. Recently, Get2College received its two-year project evaluation report and, so far, the results have been promising.

Above, students from O’Bannon High School visit Jackson State University in January. 

SSRC findings show that FAFSA completion and ACT score are the strongest predictors of college enrollment. FAFSA completion among pilot school students has increased by 17 percent since 2016. Get2College pilot students who completed a FAFSA had 4.43 times greater odds of enrolling in college than those who did not complete the FAFSA.

ACT participation has also increased significantly. At the start of the program, only 80 percent of graduating seniors had taken the ACT. That number has increased to more than 90 percent of graduating seniors. Pilot school students perform at above the average state score of 18.6, with an average ACT composite of 19.5.

Another benchmark is increased college tour participation. For the class of 2017, 80 percent of pilot school graduates participated in at least one college tour. Of those students, 75 percent enrolled in college, compared to only 35 percent of students who did not go on any college visits.

For the class of 2017 pilot school graduates, 91 percent submitted at least one college application, with an average of 2.5 applications per student.

Moving forward, Get2College plans to continue its work in the pilot schools by working closely with school leaders through data-sharing and by working to further increase engagement among high school principals. This includes the creation of school-specific college readiness and enrollment dashboards for each of the eight pilot schools. Get2College staff members will then work directly with school leaders to create a data-driven plan that supports college readiness and postsecondary attainment.

“We are in year three of our pilot school work and while making progress, system changes take time,” says Ann Hendrick, director of Get2College. “We look forward to continuing the work in our pilot schools and adding data dashboards and school teams to help track the benchmarks and college access and completion.”

The final evaluation of the Get2College Pilot School Program will be conducted in 2019 by the SSRC and will also include qualitative data. The overall evaluation will inform the future college access and success work of Get2College.