This past year was filled with grief, loss and deep challenges. The pandemic took so much from so many of us, emotionally, physically and financially. At the same time, a long-overdue reckoning on race and social justice led to a renewed commitment to building a more inclusive, equitable future. The kind of work College Possible does has perhaps never been more important. And I am excited and proud to step into my new role as the organization’s chief executive officer.
For more than two decades, College Possible has understood the importance of providing an equitable path to and through college to all students — no matter their race, socioeconomic background or identity. That mission is one we must now embrace with a heightened sense of urgency. Amid the pandemic and economic recession, the college-going aspirations of millions of learners are quickly evaporating.
Students and their parents are facing immense challenges. They are struggling to pay for food and housing, let alone school. Nearly 7 million people say they have canceled their college plans for the fall due to shifts in their finances as a result of the pandemic. Freshmen enrollment has dropped 13%. First-generation students and students from low-income and underserved backgrounds are the hardest hit, with FAFSA renewals for high school seniors having fallen by as much as 16%. Enrollment at community colleges and among Black students is falling at a startling rate. Last fall, students from families with incomes below $75,000 were about three times as likely to have canceled all of their educational plans as students from families with incomes above $100,000. In one survey, about half of Latino students and more than 40% of Black students reported having changed or canceled their college plans.
We cannot afford to lose a generation of students to the pandemic, especially those students who we know stand to gain the most from a college education. We must continue working toward the collective goal of moving communities forward, generation by generation. Now more than ever, the students we support need our help to make college possible for all.
Making good on that promise will not be easy, as the pandemic has only exacerbated the long-standing inequities we have worked to combat. It will require a deep and abiding commitment to our mission, and a willingness to adapt and evolve as challenges emerge and shift. I am confident that College Possible is up to the task. When I became president of the organization in 2019, I ensured College Possible made important investments in innovation, culture, and capacity that built upon our legacy of empowering underserved students. As CEO, I will continue to be a steward of that legacy — and that of our founder and former CEO Jim McCorkell. I will also continue to steer the organization forward, knowing we have many challenging days ahead.
I remain inspired by the team at College Possible and their continued dedication — and I remain grateful for all those who support our organization and our work. I hope you all will join me as we embark on this exciting and important new chapter.
To great things ahead,