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College-Access Programs Show Promising Results in Evaluations

With its multiple summits throughout the last year, the Obama administration has highlighted the need to help low-income students aspire to postsecondary education and raised the visibility of college-access programs.

Now, there is a focus on figuring out which of the many approaches to college-access and success work.

This month, the White House released a thick report on the progress made since January on commitments by colleges and nonprofits to reach out to more disadvantaged students.

An active participant in the White House gatherings this year, the National College Access Network has released a first-ever benchmarking report with promising results on the effectiveness of its programs. The Washington-based nonprofit, which has hundreds of member organizations across the country, provides support services for students transitioning from high school to college.

It partnered with the Herndon, Va.-based National Student Clearinghouse Research Center to analyze the outcomes of students from 24 NCAN member programs. The research found that college-enrollment rates for students in the college-access programs ranged from 65 percent to 71 percent over the four years of graduating classes studied. These rates are higher than the overall rates for similar low-income students from urban, suburban, and rural areas,which ranged from 47 to 58 percent in this year's Clearinghouse report, and even exceeded some rates at high-income urban and rural schools.

The new benchmark report found 55 percent of NCAN-served students who graduated in the class of 2007 graduated from college six years later, about 10 percentage points higher than the rate for low-income, first-generation students who were not served.

While limited in scope, some experts see the study results as an important step toward validating work in the emerging field of college-access programs.

To learn more about what's working with these programs, NCAN is profiling some of the successful member agencies, such as College Now Greater Cleveland, in its blog this month. The benchmarking report will be released annually and NCAN is accepting applications for programs that wish to be evaluated.

 

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