There are significant differences in college matriculation rates among
lower, middle and upper income students. While 48% of upper income
students will have earned a college degree at a four-year college by
age 24, only 7% of lower income students will accomplish the same goal.
Even when one segments the students by achievement level, high income
students are still much more likely to pursue a college education than
low income students.
Early awareness programs identify the barriers that prevent low-income
students from earning college degrees, and take steps to help
eliminate the barriers or minimize their impact. Barriers can include
financial, academic, extracurricular, social and motivational
stumbling blocks. Many early awareness programs offer scholarships as
an incentive for students to succeed in school and prepare for
The FinAid site itself is a good example of an early awareness
program, with extensive guides to
saving for college,
college aid planning calculators
and advice on applying for financial aid.
Notable Early Awareness Programs
College Power Bulletin
The College Power Bulletin is a free four-page handout created by Fastweb to encourage all students to consider pursuing a college education. It motivates students by discussing why they should go to college and how to pay for college. A Spanish language version of the College Power Bulletin handout,
Boletin Acerca el Poder de la Universidad,
is also available. (Thanks to Berenice Villela for the translation.)
The "I Have a Dream" Foundation (IHAD)
In the "I Have a Dream" (IHAD) program, sponsors 'adopt' a group of
50-80 low-income students and agree to pay for their college education if
they prepare for college. The sponsor is involved with the students throughout their
education, providing mentoring, tutoring and enrichment activities to
help the students prepare and to keep the dream alive.
Promise Scholarship Programs
are location-based scholarship programs where local philanthropists
commit to providing college tuition scholarships for all public school
graduates in a particular municipality or school district.
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs)
GEAR UP provides funding to states and partnerships to help increase the number of low-income students who matriculate in college. GEAR UP programs start with a cohort of students in elementary and middle school in high poverty areas, and provide them with services and resources through high school graduation.
Federal TRIO Programs
The Upward Bound program provides at-risk high school students
(including low-income students and first-generation college students)
with college preparation support. The Talent Search program provides
academic, career and financial counseling to individuals from
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
The AVID program places academically average students in academically
challenging courses and provides them with the academic support they
need to succeed. The goal of this effort is to help prepare students
in grades 5-12 for college.
Project Grad couples curricular improvements with student and family
support programs, college guidance and college scholarships to help
increase the number of lower-income students matriculating in college.
They focus on the elementary and middle "feeder" schools that supply
students to high schools, as they have found that interventions must
begin before the 9th grade.
America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth
America's Promise is an alliance of hundreds of national organizations
and local initiatives that focus on one or more of the "Five
Promises". These include mentoring initiatives, a safe environment for
after-school activities, healthy start, academic enrichment, and
Mapping Your Future
Mapping Your Future is an early awareness web site sponsored by a
group of guarantee agencies that participate in the Federal student
Parents Action is a national non-profit organization that focuses on early childhood development and school readiness.
Early Awareness Toolkits and Resources
The following sites provide resources and toolkits for designing early
- NAICU's Building
Blocks to 2020 features hundreds of programs that attempt to
improve college access, retention and completion.
- National Council for
Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) tries to create
partnerships between schools, their communities and other
organizations in order to help improve access to postsecondary
education among at-risk populations.
- The Education Trust tries to
help improve the education of all students, by improving both K-12 and
postsecondary education in ways that make them more effective. The
Education Trust is sponsored by the American Association for Higher
- National Mentoring Partnership
is a national advocate for mentoring programs, serves as a resource
for mentoring programs, and encourages individuals to volunteer to
- Youth.Gov provides
information about federal resources for after-school programs for children.
- National College Access
Network supports programs that try to inspire
students to pursue a postsecondary education.
- Foundation for Excellent Schools
partners with public schools in high-need communities to raise student
aspirations and performance.
- Pathways to College Network and Clearinghouse focuses on resources for improving
college planning, preparation, access and success for at-risk populations,
including low-income students, first-generation students and students
with disabilities. The site includes several research papers and policy
- Lumina Foundation for Education
provides information and research about methods of improving access to
and success in postsecondary education.
State Early Awareness Programs