There’s a lot more to going to college than getting an acceptance letter. There’s finding financial aid and housing. There’s paying the first tuition bill and turning in immunization records. And then there is the big picture question of what college makes the most financial sense for your family.
“It’s simple stuff, but if you add it all up, it can be an obstacle,” said Jane Donahue, co-chair of St. Louis Graduates and president of the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation. “What happens a lot is students feel like they are pretty much done. They’ve got their acceptance letter; they may have their financial aid award letter. But there are a lot of paperwork steps, especially for low-income students, that need to be pursued. And they may not be done with all of that now that they’ve graduated from high school.”
To help low-income students make sense of it all, St. Louis Graduates opened a High School to College Center last summer in the Loop. The goal was to cut down on “summer melt,” the phenomena where students who are accepted into college “melt away” after high school graduation and don’t show up on campus.
After helping more than 200 St. Louis students make the transition to college last year, the Center is back again this year. For eleven weeks, counselors will be on hand to offer free help and advice to students who qualified for free-and reduced lunch in high school.
The focus is on low-income students because they often have a “poverty of resources in their home” explained Lisa Orden Zarin, founder and CEO of College Bound. “There is an intimidation about higher ed facilities. They don’t have a network of aunts, uncles, grandmas, friends over the summer who they can call upon. So having resources available when there is a poverty of network is hugely important.”
Researchers affiliated with College Bound have found that up to 40 percent of low-income college-bound high school seniors nationwide don’t make it to college in the fall. That number goes down to 10 percent when all college-bound high school seniors are factored in.
As one of the students who went to the Center last year, Daisha Tankin knows firsthand what a difference the Center can make.
“Prior to going to the Center, I was really frustrated,” said Tankin, who recently completed her freshman year at Harris Stowe State University. “I had my hopes aimed at a college that was quite expensive, however when I went to the Center I was able to sit down with a financial aid advisor who …gave me insight on my finances. I just really wasn’t sure how financial aid worked…I was really confused, but it shed some light on my situation.”
After the financial aid advisor explained the difference between a subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loan, Tankin was able to make an informed decision about where she could afford to go to school. This summer she is returning to the Center as an intern.
“During the summer, we’re not given the luxury of having the high school counselors that we once had during the school year,” explained Tankin. “So a lot of conflict comes up during the period of graduation up until when the student actually has to arrive on campus. And a lot of people don’t even arrive on campus because somewhere between those two milestones, something has happened and discouraged them, and they just turn their back on it.”
One of the tools that will be available at the High School to College Center is Bridgit, a new on-line software that was developed by College Bound with funding from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Bridgit gives the student a customized list of the tasks needed to successfully complete enrollment, prioritized by due dates and degree of challenge. The software also connects the student to a counselor if help is needed to complete any of the tasks. "We know that kids live on their phone and on the internet and being able to combine the power of deep human resources with technology is the integration we need," said Zarin.
As the commissioner of higher education for the state of Missouri, David Russell has his eye on the efforts of St. Louis Graduates and College Bound to help transition students to college. He hopes the state can broaden some of those efforts to reach students throughout the state. He is in St. Louis to speak at the High School to College Center open house today.
St. Louis Graduates High School to College Center
Provides services to high school seniors following graduation to insure they make a successful transition to college enrollment in the fall, open June 2- August 1 at 618 N. Skinker Blvd.
St. Louis Graduates Website
Provides promising students from under-resourced backgrounds with the academic enrichment, social supports and life skills needed to succeed in college and careers.
College Bound Website
St. Louis Graduates High School to College Center Open House
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Remarks begin at 3:00 p.m.
High School to College Center, 618 N. Skinker Blvd., just north of Delmar
St. Louis Graduates Website