News: Collaboration & Partnerships

Taking Stock of the College Access and Success Movement: A Conversation with Grantmakers

Friday, October 18, 2019  
Posted by: Karen Lopez, Communications Intern
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We “always hear ‘college isn’t worth it’,” said Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation and an NCAN board member. “What you don’t hear often is the rest of the sentence, because you rarely hear someone say ‘college isn’t worth it for my kid’. What you hear is ‘college isn’t worth it for those kids or these kids.’”

Luna spoke these words last month during an NCAN-hosted panel discussion titled “Taking Stock of the College Access Success Movement: A Conversation with Grantmakers.” The conversation took place at NCAN’s 2019 National Conference in Indianapolis – “Racing Toward Postsecondary Success.”

Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of Kresge Foundation's Education Program, moderated the panel, and the panelists included:

Discussion topics varied from the organizations’ collaborative projects, to the role of technology in the college access and success field.

“Technology is super valuable, but not a replacement in a way to expand reach,” said Tucker. He spoke about the ongoing challenges related to college access, the need to improve graduation rates, and the balance, scale, and quality of the use of technology.

Kirwin briefly introduced the Strong Start to Finish program, a collaborative effort among higher education systems. The program aims to increase the number of students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and returning adult learners who succeed in their first year of college and graduate career-ready. Kirwin also spoke about the ever-evolving world of higher education and how to keep strategies timely, relevant, and grounded in what the higher education field needs.

There are many entities that feel uncomfortable having conversations about race. Howard said philanthropy “can incentivize the kind of change that we believe is necessary, and often if [these entities] don’t do it, it will not be done.” Philanthropic foundations are in a unique position to specifically focus on race and ethnicity. In return, they are capable of pushing the envelope to ensure that these conversations are happening.

“We have to insist that every student, regardless of where they’re born, who their parents are, how much money they have . . . should have an opportunity to pursue their pathway. College is worth it,” said Luna.

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