NCAN to Support School Districts in Improving Postsecondary Advising

June 1, 2018

By Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

The National College Access Network (NCAN) is pleased to announce the receipt of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will allow NCAN to assist 20 grantee school districts in the foundation’s ’To and Through’ Advising Challenge. Grantees will work to improve the postsecondary outcomes of students by improving postsecondary advising, increasing access to financial aid, combating summer melt, and using data more effectively.

The challenge will award grantees $75,000 for the 2018-19 school year and provide access to a year-long community of practice. It will also allow them to receive individualized coaching and benefit from access to effective models, tools, and practices. Grantees will become NCAN members, receive technical assistance from NCAN staff members and affiliated postsecondary advising and data coaches, and attend NCAN’s national conference in Pittsburgh from Sept. 24-26. The foundation’s request for proposals (RFP) from districts closed on May 31, and the foundation plans to announce grantees in August.

“We are grateful for this investment that will help bridge the space between K-12 and postsecondary education,” NCAN Executive Kim Cook said. “The college access and success community has learned so much over the last 20 years about how to improve students’ postsecondary outcomes, and this grant is a strategic opportunity to share effective practices and reach many more students who can benefit. By using expert NCAN member representatives as coaches, we will help school districts get real-world, practical expertise on what works for students and how to leverage all assets within the school and community to improve postsecondary advising, increase financial aid applications, reduce summer melt, and increase enrollment in institutions where students are more likely to succeed.”

The challenge’s RFP notes that “an overwhelming majority of students, across all subgroups, aspire to complete some form of postsecondary education. But, many never enroll, and among those who do, far too few actually obtain a degree or credential. Moreover, there are substantial attainment gaps across both race and income. The good news is that high schools have made great strides in encouraging students from low-income families and students of color to apply to postsecondary institutions.” 

Despite this improvement in access, substantial disparities in postsecondary degree attainment remain.

Over the course of the academic year, grantees will report on students’ Estimated Postsecondary Completion (a weighted average of institutional six-year outcomes by race/ethnicity), adopt a measurement framework using key predictive indicators, and analyze and disaggregate current student data. Coaches and NCAN staff will help grantees develop plans for implementation in the 2019-20 academic year. Most systemically, the challenge will find school leaders, counselors, educators, and community partners creating “an implementation plan to ensure systemic access to effective advising. This plan may include strengthened partnerships with college access organizations, higher education institutions, and other community supports.”

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