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Delaware reinforces commitment to expand college access at White House event
Delaware Reinforces Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event
Today, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will join President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.
The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.
Last year, Governor Jack Markell pledged to expand the state’s college access efforts by: 1) providing every public school senior the time, resources and support needed to complete college applications during the school day; 2) providing all public school seniors time during the school day to write college essays; 3) helping families complete financial aid and scholarship forms; and 4) celebrating students as they apply and are admitted to college.
The state fulfilled those promises over the past year and is building on those successes, Murphy committed to additional supports today: an expanded program to help families complete financial aid and scholarship forms, a new text-message initiative to ensure students and families don’t miss important college deadlines, an annual study of college remediation rates in the state and a math course that aims to ensure students graduate from Delaware high schools ready to enter credit-bearing math courses in college.
“We want every student who graduates from Delaware’s public schools to leave high school with the ability to choose the life path that is best for him or her, but some students don’t even consider college an option because of unfamiliar and overwhelming procedural barriers,” Murphy said. “By providing support to students and families at every step in the college application and enrollment process, we are removing some of those hurdles.
“And by ensuring that once they get to college, they are taking credit-bearing courses, we are increasing the chance that they will complete their degrees while reducing their costs for earning them,” he said.
Today’s participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The President will announce new steps on how his Administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college. Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on January 14, 2014.
Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile. In an effort to expand college access, the Obama Administration has increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.
More on Delaware’s new commitments
· The state will partner with StandByMe to provide financial aid support to students and families at high schools across the state beginning later this month. Every public high school in the state was invited to join with 27 – about three-quarters of public high schools statewide -- signing on for this year. This is an increase from the three schools that participated last year.
· Delaware high school seniors and their families soon will be able to sign up for free text message reminders and tips for applying and enrolling in college.
Every year, high school seniors who have applied to college, completed their financial aid information, were accepted to the school never show up for the first day of classes in the fall. It is a national problem affecting an estimated 10 to 15 percent of would-be students, according to the U.S. Department of Education. For those from low-income families, the figure is even higher. To try to ensure more of those students start their freshman year of college as planned, the Delaware Department of Education is working with the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration to provide all Delaware students and their families help in the college application process.
Working with Signal Vine, the state will send participants two to three text messages per month between January and August. The focus on the messages in the first weeks will be on support completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For students who choose Delaware colleges or universities, later messages will be targeted with their schools’ specific deadlines and other information. Those planning to attend out-of-state schools will receive more general information and reminders. While similar efforts have been undertaken at a smaller scale elsewhere, such as regions of West Virginia, Delaware will be the first at a statewide scale.
The texting program is voluntary. Students already had the opportunity to sign up during College Application Month with more than 4,000 doing so. Parents will have the opportunity to sign up in the coming weeks. No identifying information will be shared with the state’s partners.
Delaware’s project is made possible thanks to support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
· Delaware has committed to improve college remediation rates among its high school graduates. Remedial courses are classes for students who are deemed not ready for college-level work. Students are placed in remedial courses based on scores on college placement tests and/or their SAT scores. Remedial courses do not provide credits toward a degree, but students still must pay tuition – or use financial aid – for them. A U.S. Department of Education study found that less than half of students in remedial courses actually complete them with only 17 percent of remedial reading students and 27 percent of remedial math students completing their bachelor’s degrees.
The first of what will become an annual study was released in September, finding that more than half of Delaware public school graduates who enrolled in in-state colleges in 2012 were placed in remedial courses. The report, with information by high school, is available here: http://www.delawaregoestocollege.org/remediation-data.
· To address this issue, Delaware also has piloted a math course that aims to ensure students graduate ready to enter credit-bearing math courses in college.
This fall three schools in the state – Brandywine School District’s Concord High School, Laurel School District’s Laurel High School and Woodbridge School District’s Woodbridge High School – are piloting the Foundations of College Math course, which was developed with the assistance of Delaware higher education professors. Delaware’s colleges and universities have guaranteed those students who successfully complete the course will not be required to take remedial math courses in college. With success of the pilot, Delaware is committed to expanding the program to more schools.
These initiatives are just part of the state’s larger effort to improve college access and enrollment, which also includes:
· Free school-day administration of the PSAT to every public high school sophomore and SAT to every junior in the state
· College Application Month, which wrapped up in November after providing every public high school senior in the state school time to fill out college applications with the help of school counselors, higher education representatives and other volunteers. This was an expansion from the pilot year two years ago of two schools and 20 sites last year. This year, Delaware institutes of higher education also waived application fees for students applying during CAM.
· A summer residential program that launched in June that gives rising juniors from public high schools across Delaware a chance to gain skills that will help them in college. The three-year program will ensure they have the academic and social skills they need to enroll in and graduate from a four-year university. Through a partnership with St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, the Delaware College Scholars Program’s first class included about 40 students selected for the program based on their high academic performances with preference given to those from low-income families who would be first-generation college-goers. In addition to college campus tours, they spent 2 ½ weeks on campus, where they will took math and literacy classes aimed to prepare them for university-level work. They also learned about human development and general organizational and study habits that will help them succeed in a college environment. SAT preparation also was taught. The students will return the next two summers to continue in their studies and preparation. Each summer will have a different focus in preparing students for the college selection and transition process.
· The state also is working to increase access to and success in college-level courses in high school. More than 85 percent of Delaware graduates who scored a 3 or higher on the 5-point Advanced Placement exams were able to enroll in college-level courses when they entered Delaware public colleges in 2012. Only 31 percent of students who did not take AP courses were able to do so. The state also has expanded dual enrollment opportunities, particularly for students from low-income families.
· In partnership with Wilmington University’s counseling program, the state will expand its college access campaign beyond high school with the “I Will Go” campaign in the state’s elementary and middle schools.
Find more information and resources at www.DelawareGoestoCollege.org.