June 14, 2017
New Report: Opportunity Youth College Success
A new brief from the Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) and the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy explores how to promote college success for Opportunity Youth (OY) and first-generation students in postsecondary education. The goal of the research is to systematize supports for OY to ensure that more students in this population have the resources to complete college and earn postsecondary credentials.
Researchers found that this college-going population has a clear set of strengths, including the ability to articulate goals for completing a college degree, a desire to improve job prospects, and an aspiration to set an example for and take care of family. However, OY need additional supports centered around four areas for system improvement:
- Aligning campus systems with students’ needs
- Streamlining student’s paths through academic requirements, to ensure progress in a program of study
- Building students’ navigation skills to access supports once on campus
- Connecting community and on-campus resources to help students balance the demands of work, family and college
To address these areas, we must prepare young people for higher education while they’re still in high school or a high school equivalency (HSE) program. One way to do this is to allow students to take college courses while still in high school and earn credit for both. This approach, known as early college, has been shown to help students reduce the time and cost of getting a degree, get acquainted with expectations of campuses, and identify skill gaps that can be addressed before they start paying tuition so they can avoid or minimize the time spent on costly remedial courses. Above all, this experience can also help students begin to picture themselves as college-bound.
We also need to coach students on their choices early in the process. This starts with assigning students transition coaches to provide guidance on admissions, enrollment, transition, and financing. Coaching should focus on academic and nonacademic needs so that students know what they need to succeed. Regular access to comprehensive coaching—that stretches beyond students’ transition to campus—builds students’ ability to navigate toward a degree. Most importantly, we need on-campus supports to help students tackle the challenges they are facing outside of school so they can focus on learning. This means centralizing assistance programs and collaborating with social service agencies to help students address housing needs, child care, hunger, and emergency aid.