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New study confirms College Possible’s impact on students

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A three-year study commissioned by College Possible Milwaukee and implemented by Wisconsin HOPE Lab has shown that high school students served by the nonprofit are 30 percent more likely than their peers to enroll in college the year after high school graduation, and were more likely to enroll in four-year and selective institutions.

“We see the impact of our work as we track individual student outcomes,” said Edie Turnbull, executive director of College Possible Milwaukee. “Having this validated by a third party only gives us greater confidence that the College Possible model is effective in closing the degree divide between students from low-income backgrounds and their higher income peers.”

The College Possible model relies on near-peer coaching, leveraging recent college graduates who serve through AmeriCorps to provide mentoring, support and information about the college admissions and enrollment process to students from low-income backgrounds in Milwaukee schools. Students can opt to apply to College Possible in the spring of their sophomore year of high school, and take part in as much as 320 hours of extensive guidance and support with coaches during their junior and senior years. Additionally, College Possible coaches work with high school graduates through the summer to ensure fall enrollment for those accepted, and support students through college to graduation.

The Wisconsin HOPE Lab trial evaluated College Possible’s high school programming and found that when the program is implemented with fidelity, participants a) complete more college applications, b) complete more scholarship applications, and c) complete the FAFSA at higher rates. Relative to the matched comparison group, on average College Possible students completed approximately two more college admissions applications and 1.4 more scholarship applications. The rate at which students completed the FAFSA was 11 percentage points higher than for the matched comparison group.

These pre-college activities are critical measures, as finances are one of the primary barriers to college graduation for College Possible students. Across all six College Possible sites, 98 percent of students earn admission to a college or university and those students go on to graduate from college at twice the rate of other students from low-income backgrounds.

“The cost of earning a college degree has increased 60 percent over the last decade,” Turnbull noted. “Helping our students identify and pursue scholarships and grants is key to helping them persist through college, and key to helping them contribute to the future of Milwaukee.”

For a copy of the full report, please contact College Possible Milwaukee at or 414-220-9450.

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