New Grant Helps NCAN, Texas A&M and College Forward Promote Rural Postsecondary Attainment

November 27, 2017

By Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern

NCAN is partnering with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and College Forward to increase the number of rural students entering and completing postsecondary degree programs.

Research has shown that a lack of resources and support for rural Texans has created a population that knows less about college planning and is less likely to enter or complete postsecondary education than its urban peers. Only 11 of every 100 Texan students considered low-income in 8th grade will complete a postsecondary degree or certificate within six years of their high school graduation.

The AgriLife Extension Service is aiming to change this pattern by bringing college access and success services to 27 sites in Texas over four years. The service program, which received a $3 million grant from the Greater Texas Foundation for this initiative in September, is focused on improving the lives of Texans through the promotion of education, individual health and environmentalism.

To help the AgriLife Extension Service achieve its goal of getting more rural Texan students to and through college, NCAN and College Forward – based in Austin – will provide the services with expertise on college access and success.

“NCAN is excited about this opportunity to level the playing field for rural Texas students," said MorraLee Keller, NCAN's Director of Technical Services, who will be overseeing the project. "Our hope is to support these students so that they enroll and complete a credential or degree at the same rate as those in urban and suburban settings.”

To make this goal a reality, NCAN will provide the AgriLife Extension Service with professional development training for those in direct service delivery positions, coaching sites as they set up programs and helping with data collection and analysis.

Until now, most of NCAN's work in Texas has focused on urban areas.

"With the largest rural population of students in the country, there is tremendous need for providing quality programming and support to this population located in small schools in isolated settings," NCAN Executive Director Kim Cook said.

College Forward will provide training for agents, curricula for students and parents, summer melt and college completion support services, and data management services.

Austin Buchan, CEO of College Forward, says the collaborative efforts of the organizations involved will "lead to a proven, scalable model that transforms the lives of thousands of underserved students across Texas’ vast rural landscape."

With the guidance of College Forward and NCAN, the AgriLife Extension Service hopes to create a "college-going culture" in rural Texas. The initiative is built around the idea that If more students are given access to a higher education and complete degrees they can expect higher wages, better career prospects, improved health, and increased civic engagement, making for a better, more equitable state.

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