Higher ed leaders ‘building bridges’ to underserved communities

Colleges and universities around the nation are taking a more holistic approach to the educational “continuum,” creating programs that prepare younger students for higher education and finding community-based opportunities to boost student success. Featured in Education Dive, Maryland’s five-year-old Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program aims to increase college-readiness and college access among students at 13 high schools in Montgomery County—a suburb of Washington, D.C.—through a partnership with Montgomery (community) College and the Universities at Shady Grove. The latter is a single campus that houses satellite locations of nine Maryland public universities.

To strengthen area students’ pathway to higher education, Montgomery College places “coaches” at participating high schools; the coaches provide tutoring, application assistance, test preparation, and information on accessing college. In addition, the ACES program hosts college transfer workshops and staffs coaches on college campuses to increase student success. All colleges and universities participating in ACES have agreed to support students regardless of which institution they choose to attend. The program is funded primarily through philanthropy and has received $5 million in private donations thus far.

Education Dive also profiles a Chicago effort to add “a human connection” to online instruction. Realizing that a number of its students—primarily adult learners and high school students taking dual-enrollment courses—may not have reliable internet access, might struggle with transportation out of the city, or could benefit from in-person support, Rasmussen College last year opened a physical facility in downtown Chicago to complement its locations out in the Chicago suburbs. The center, Centro de Aprendizaje, also aims to engage its surrounding community; the campus director notes that her “staff is first-generation, so we’re able to identify with the students.” Rasmussen officials credit the center’s presence with helping boost enrollment from Chicago’s Southwest neighborhoods by 250 percent in the last year.

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