Touring Ohio's College Access Programs, Part One

February 18, 2015

Bill DeBaun, Program Analyst

The Buckeye State. The Mother of Presidents. Birthplace of Aviation. The Heart of It All. Wikipedia offers up all of these nicknames for the state of Ohio, but somehow neglects to mention anything about the concentration of college access and success programs and initiatives there. Maybe they’re just waiting for something catchy to present itself.

Two weeks ago I had the chance to visit a number of college access and success programs in Ohio. Visiting a college access program in-person affords a much deeper connection than a phone call or email conversation ever could. A program’s office environment can tell you a lot about the work that goes on there: are people isolated from each other or set up to be near each other and collegial? Are colleagues performing certain functions situated together or intermingled with other teams? Is there a water cooler to congregate around and talk about the latest (in this case, probably, Buckeyes) game? Okay, maybe that last question isn’t so telling.

I’ve put together a quick rundown of the college access programs I visited (most of them NCAN members) and some lessons learned/observations from a very productive (and partially snowy) trip up Interstate 71.

In each of the three C’s that I visited (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland), there is a prominent college access program tied to the local school district. In Cincinnati, that program is the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (an NCAN member).  CYC is a partner with the Cincinnati Public School District (among other schools and districts), from which it receives academic data. CYC provides youth development services in and out of schools. These include one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, and tutoring. As students gets older, college and career success programming becomes available to them, including standard access services like course planning, campus tours, financial aid advising, and college exam preparation. Additionally, there are specific programs administered through CYC like Talent Search, GEARUP, and the AmeriCorps Ohio College Guide Program.  

All of these services appear to be helping; CYC reports that 96 percent of program-served seniors graduate high school. After recently absorbing Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates (in the Jobs for American Graduates model), CYC now offers a one-credit elective to 10th through 12th graders that uses “experiential-based curriculum that combines classroom work with student enrichment activities.” After graduation, “Students are supported one year…to ensure a successful transition to job, military, training or college.”

CYC is fairly comprehensive on the access side of things, but students who might need additional financial assistance can look to the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation. CSF administers a huge number of scholarships that are funded by businesses, private individuals, and non-profit entities. These scholarships go to students in and around the Cincinnati area, and each has different requirements and criteria, although they all include unmet financial need as one of them. Unlike some other scholarship foundations, CSF does not have any scholarship funds of its own to dole out, and so it must rely on the renewal of scholarship funds over time. Speaking with staff at CSF, I heard more about the very large collective unmet need of scholarship applicants. With so many local businesses, organizations, and individuals tapped into the foundation, it can be hard to find new funds to continue to chip away at this unmet need. CSF continues to look for ways to get the word about its scholarships out there to the students who need them the most.

My trip to Cincinnati also took me to the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which houses EDWorks and StriveTogether. The key phrase around the office here is collective impact. The StriveTogether framework operates around four pillars: shared community vision, evidence based decision making, collaborative action, and investment and sustainability. They provide resources like webinars, blog posts, and reports around these pillars for their community partners and the public. Most recently, they published a report that should be particularly useful to any NCAN member trying to have a data sharing partnership with a local school district.

This concludes the first blog post about my swing through Ohio. Check back tomorrow when I discuss my site visits in Columbus and Cleveland!

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