Program gets low-income students thinking about college

Program gets low-income students thinking about college

College for Every Student provides mentoring, community service opportunities, and exposure to college campuses
A kindergartner from Cincinnati is already planning for college with CFES.

A K12 college awareness program operating in 200 schools and districts is greatly increasing underserved students’ interest in continuing their education, according to a new study.

College for Every Student (CFES) is a nonprofit that has worked with districts with high populations of low-income students since 1991. The program, which has shown positive results recently, helps prepare them for higher education with mentoring, community service opportunities, and exposure to college campuses and admissions processes.

Most students in the program are in grades 6 through 9. The September “College for Every Student Middle-School Survey” from the University of Michigan found that 75 percent of middle school CFES students surveyed plan to attend a four-year college, compared to just 5 percent of non-CFES students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Students who had been involved in CFES had significantly higher aspirations and better knowledge of the high school courses required for college than did students who attended a comparison middle school,” says Edward St. John, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Education and a co-author of the study.

Student participants are selected by schools based on need, and are often the first generation of their family to consider college. Called “scholars,” the students are paired with mentors such as college students and business leaders. They go on college visits as early as elementary school, and are encouraged to start planning for college early.

The scholars also organize service projects in their schools and communities, building leadership skills and a sense of social responsibility. The program usually takes place before or after school, or during lunch.

About 99 percent of CFES participants graduate from high school, and 96 percent go on to college, says Rick Dalton, president and CEO of the nonprofit.

“Most of our scholars don’t live in neighborhoods or homes where there is a college culture, so they are not thinking about the future or the steps it will take to fill the jobs that are going unfilled across the country,” Dalton says. “Once students understand what it takes, and find a reason for working hard and taking rigorous courses, their performance begins to change.”