By Dominique “Domy” Raymond, Senior Program Director, National Engagement and Philanthropy, USA Funds
Community-based organizations play a critical role in helping promote the success of lower-income and first-generation college students. The power of CBOs to make a real difference for students was on display last week at the annual conference of the National College Access Network. NCAN is celebrating its 20th year of service, and my USA Funds® colleagues Pat Roe and Frank Essien and I joined more than 800 others at the conference to discuss best practices in improving college access and success.
As NCAN notes, each year hundreds of thousands of academically prepared high school seniors miss the college transition, and many more “underenroll” in institutions where they are likely to drop out before graduation. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 52 percent of 2011 high school graduates from low-income families enrolled in college immediately after high school, a figure 30 percentage points lower than that of their high-income peers.
Community-based organizations are working to ensure that a higher percentage of these students makes the successful transition from high school to college or other postsecondary programs, and that students successfully navigate other barriers along their path through education to the workforce. In fact, CBOs play a vital role as intermediaries between students and their families, postsecondary institutions, social service agencies and employers.
Colleagues from several CBOs that USA Funds supports joined us at the NCAN conference. They include:
- Bottom Line.
- Bright Prospect.
- College Bound St. Louis.
- Children Youth and Family Collaborative.
- Genesys Works.
- National Urban League.
- On Point for College.
The work that we are supporting through these organizations is a vital component of USA Funds’ Key Education Transitions initiative. The overall initiative is designed to plug the many “leaks” in the education and talent pipeline between high school and the workplace. These CBOs will help more students make it through that pipeline by:
- Ensuring that coaching and mentorship are integral to high school, college and career success.
- Serving a de facto coordinating role among organizations that support youth and young adults.
- Providing robust work-based learning opportunities for students.
- Promoting policies in support of youth and young adult postsecondary completion and employment.
As we’ve gotten to know the leaders and staff members of these organizations, we’ve come to recognize that they aren’t simply idealists with a passion for helping students. They are hard-nosed business leaders and social entrepreneurs who have a plan for realizing their vision of improving the economic prospects of the young adults they serve and the communities in which they work. We’ve come to realize that CBOs are essential to reconnecting young adults who are out of school and not working, and keeping other youth from becoming disconnected from education and work.
We look forward to supporting these organizations, not only through our grant-making activity, but also by knitting them together in a learning network, a space where they can share what’s working and provide opportunities for learning and collaboration, so they can help more students complete their education with a connection to work.