Harvard Researcher Finds Thousands More Low-Income Kids Able to Make College Dreams Possible

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2013

Contact: Elizabeth Cooper, 651-288-9455

ST. PAUL, MN – A new study conducted by Harvard University finds that the country’s educational achievement gap can be addressed through intensive, tailored coaching and support. The study, released today by Harvard researcher, Dr. Chris Avery and College Possible, is the first to rigorously examine the impact of a college success program using randomized controls, which are considered to be the gold standard of evaluation. The findings show that College Possible’s approach to unlocking the potential of low-income students is effective and that students served are significantly more likely to enroll in a four year college.

Dr. Avery explains, “While there are many organizations working to promote college access for low-income students, to my knowledge, College Possible is the only program that has demonstrated its success in increasing applications and enrollment at four-year colleges in a randomized trial.” Dr. Avery’s analysis estimates that the College Possible program increases enrollment in four-year colleges by 15 percentage points, and this result is statistically significant.

College Possible founder and CEO, Jim McCorkell, introduced the study in an online video this morning. McCorkell and others point to Georgetown University projections that the American workforce will fall millions short of the total educated workers needed by 2020.

Only eight percent of low-income students earn degrees. This is staggering when compared to the 73 percent of upper-income American kids who earn a college degree,” says McCorkell. “Educating our capable low-income students is not only the right thing to do, it is the only way to maintain our country’s strong workforce in a competitive global economy.”

College Possible’s approach is designed to connect students to the college that best matches their abilities at a fraction of the cost of other college success programs. “Undermatching,” or the pervasive funneling of low-income students to colleges that do not challenge them, is addressed through a curriculum delivered by AmeriCorps mentors, often recent college graduates themselves, who have signed on for a year or more of service.

“Avery’s study provides evidence that College Possible is effective in helping students make smart choices in where to enroll,” said Dr. William Bowen, President of Princeton University and of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and editor of College Access: Opportunity or Privilege?

“The surest path out of poverty is a four-year degree, and we help our students reach graduation in a cost-effective way by harnessing the power of national service. This makes our model efficient and highly replicable, so we’re growing. When college is possible, anything is possible,” says McCorkell.

“Unfortunately, rigorous efforts to assess the effectiveness of these programs are all too rare. We hope College Possible’s work with Dr. Avery will inspire other programs to subject their work to this kind of careful scrutiny.” said Dr. Michael McPherson, President of the Spencer Foundation and author of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities.

College Possible is currently working in Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wisconsin. The organization just announced plans to expand in 2014.  Learn more about the College Possible’s model.

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