In America today, the biggest driver of upward mobility is education. Without a college degree, half of those raised in the lowest-income families will remain in poverty throughout their adult lives. But with a college degree, nine out of ten will escape the poverty of their youth.
Of 100 middle class ninth-graders, 60 will enroll in college and 41 will graduate college with a degree. But of one hundred low-income ninth-graders, only 36 will pursue college and only nine will make it to graduation. The failure to address the college drop-out problem among low-income students directly contributes to the fact that 70% of children born into poverty will fail to earn the national average income during their lifetime. At Green Dot Public Schools, our College Persistence Initiative seeks to close the college completion gap for students from low-income communities.
Strategies and objectives
Green Dot Public Schools has designed the College Persistence Initiative to meet four foundational objectives: 1) Create equity of opportunity for students from low-income communities; 2) Develop the professional expertise of stakeholders to fully prepare students to succeed in college; 3) Empower students with knowledge, confidence, resilience, and self-advocacy; and 4) Provide students with the enrichment opportunities inherent to a college-preparatory education.
In order to make a successful transition to college, students must begin preparing while still in high school. Research indicates certain precollege characteristics — internal factors such as goal orientation, resourcefulness, and determination, which students carry with them into college — strongly correlate with college persistence. Green Dot has expanded its advisory curriculum to include a comprehensive Senior Transition Program. Lessons consist of a range of topics that prepare students for postsecondary success, including adjusting to college life, understanding college culture, accessing college supports and resources, and further development of time-management skills.
Each year the Senior Transition Program culminates with Launch to College, an all-day event where graduating seniors are celebrated, and prepared for their imminent college transition. At this year’s event in April, students engaged in panel discussions with alumni of Green Dot Public Schools who spoke of potential challenges ahead and their strategies to overcome them. One panelist shared her tips about acquiring the required textbooks for class. She explained that paying money at the university bookstore wasn’t the only option to get the books she needed. The school library had the books required for class and served as an alternative to spending hundreds of dollars each semester.
The Launch to College event also served as a platform for networking with other Green Dot students and alumni going to the same college. By connecting these students, it’s our hope that they build a community of support in their new college environment.
Over the summer
If it wasn’t for my counselor, I wouldn’t be going to college. She has helped me since eleventh grade, staying on me to research colleges, apply to colleges, do well on my tests, everything.
Alvaro Quintero, Ánimo Pat Brown Alumnus and 1st year Harvard University Student
After graduation, as new alumni start their summer vacation, Green Dot provides a schedule of college-going supports. These supports help avoid the perilous ‘summer melt’ between high school and college- a reference to students being accepted to college in the spring but failing to attend the first day of class in the fall. Summer melt is often the result of first-generation students being unaware of simple and readily available solutions to such apparent barriers as paying housing deposits and funding travel expenses.
To address summer melt, Green Dot offers alumni a schedule of college-readiness workshops on subjects such as class enrollment, financial planning, networking events to build peer-support groups, and regular text message reminders of important deadlines. An overnight college retreat provides alumni with firsthand experiences of the college experience and culture. Concurrently, specially trained school counselors and teachers at each school site–alumni champions–directly support over 300 alumni most susceptible to summer melt. Together, alumni champions and the College Persistence team ensure that all college-bound students successfully matriculate in the fall.
Our network of college going Green Dot alumni provides social and emotional support to freshmen and help guide them towards available assistance and resources. Alumni Mentors are trained by Green Dot’s counseling team and receive a scholarship for their work in helping students acclimate and thrive during the vital first year in a college environment. Ultimately, Green Dot aims to see 100% of its college-going graduates successfully attain a degree.