College Forward: Impacting even more low-income college students

The start of college can give rise to many emotions for students: excitement, accomplishment and anticipation for what’s to come. But for students who are the first in their families to attend college, there is also uncertainty about what to expect when they arrive on campus. Uncertainty about being away from home for the first time, managing a large course load and fitting in with new friends, to name a few.  And these fears can be a barrier to college graduation by clouding a student’s ability to clearly see the finish line.

Since 2003, College Forward has played an integral role in getting more low-income, first-generation students throughout the state of Texas to college graduation day. With a proven mentorship model and an innovative partnership program, College Forward is significantly impacting college enrollment and completion for these students.

A snapshot of success

College Forward is leveling the playing field for low-income high school students, with 99.5 percent of their students graduating from high school and being admitted into college. On average, 90 percent of College Forward’s graduating seniors enroll in college within a year – more than twice the rate of other low-income Central Texas students.

They’re making an impact on college persistence and college completion rates, too. Eighty-two percent of College Forward students who have enrolled in college have either graduated or are still enrolled. College Forward students are also two and a half times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than their other economically disadvantaged peers.

College Forward’s impact spans to over 900 high school students and 7,600 college students across more than 110 colleges and universities. With the organization projected to continue growing next year, they are chipping away at the barriers that low-income students face on their journeys to college completion.

College Forward has found the secret sauce for college success: collaboration and support.

Two approaches to one goal: The model

With the ultimate goal of college completion, the College Forward model focuses on two important times when students need support: during college planning and the transition to campus life.  As such, College Forward developed a program that would support students through both:

  • Getting to college: The first part of the program – the College Access Program – offers personalized support and resources for high school students aspiring to go to college and their parents. In eleventh grade, students are paired with a College Access Coach, who helps them navigate the challenges of applying to and planning for college.
  • Getting through college: Upon acceptance into a college, these students are paired with a dedicated College Forward coach as part of the College Completion Program. Along with a network of on-campus mentors, these coaches work in lock-step with students to make their transition into college easier and provide support throughout the college journey.

Expanding impact: Success Partnerships

Though this model was effective, College Forward wondered: how can we make an even bigger impact? In 2012, they began collaborating with Texas colleges and universities and expanded their reach to all low-income students at these partner schools, regardless of whether or not they participated in College Forward support services in high school. The program, called Success Partnerships, was designed with their mission in mind: to improve college graduation rates for even more low-income students in Texas.

Already the Success Partnerships program has shown promising results. Their first success partner, Lone Star College – North Harris, saw a 37 percent increase relative to the college’s first year retention rates.

Moving forward, the organization is working to scale this model at other schools like Concordia University in Austin and Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. They currently have 6 college success partners, and plan to be on as many as 12 campuses across the state by the end of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Being the change

College Forward has found the secret sauce for college success: collaboration and support. With the belief that all motivated students who want to go to college can get into and graduate from college, they offer the necessary support to help them do just that.  College Forward’s focus on increased impact has led them to reach more students, coach more students, and empower more students to accomplish their graduation goals.