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Community Supports Boost College Success

In a welcome addition to the growing research on postsecondary access and persistence, a new study shines a light on an underused set of resources for increasing postsecondary attainment: formal and informal supports provided by community organizations.
Information Update
February 15, 2012

The role of the community and the provision of social supports rarely make it to the forefront of research or mainstream policy strategies dealing with postsecondary success. Yet this study – Unbundling Youth, Family and Community Involvement in College Access: On the Ground in Austin, Texasdemonstrates that when first-generation college-going students get actively involved in college planning conversations and experiences, they enroll in four-year institutions at the same rate as do their middle and upper middle-income peers. Active involvement in college planning is a powerful “gap-closer,” and community organizations can be key partners in the college access equation.

Since this study was conducted several years ago, Austin leaders have continued developing initiatives to increase college access and persistence, including:  

  • The Go to College work team of the Ready by 21-Austin Coalition produced the “Go to College guidebook” to provide simplified, consolidated local information about planning for college.  Two nonprofit members of that team led formation of the Austin College Access Network, which provides an ongoing mechanism for college-focused nonprofits and higher education partners to coordinate about college planning, transition to college, working with undocumented and first-generation college students, supports for college persistence, and other issues.  
  • The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has expanded Financial Aid Saturdays in school districts across the region.
  • The Ready by 21-Austin coalition launched a new version of the Youth Services Mapping system, YSM, with specific service listings related to college readiness and access.
  • The Student Futures Project of the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin continues with a multi-district longitudinal survey of high school students and graduates, using some of the questions that were part of the Unbundling study.