The U.S. Department of Treasury announced 11 recipients of Financial Empowerment Innovation Funding at the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning. Awardees include universities, nonprofits, research organizations and others working to inform higher-education decisions made by low-income young people. College Possible will be funded to grow and evaluate the financial literacy elements of their program, designed to coach low-income students to-and-through college. The U.S. Treasury’s announcement states, “Through the projects announced, Treasury is supporting rigorous research and analysis by some of the nation’s leading innovators and research institutions – research that will develop knowledge and insights, and identify new and effective practices in these areas.”
While there is significant financial aid available, 70 percent of college-capable, low-income students cite financial barriers as their main obstacle to college. The reality is, the only path pricier than that of pursuing a college degree is to forgo one. Efforts to address this issue have received widespread attention from the President and major media outlets as discussions of workforce gaps and the stark class divide among degree-earning Americans raise concerns. College Possible, a national nonprofit working to create more college graduates, will coach nearly 19,000 low-income students toward degrees this year. In Wisconsin, College Possible is serving 3,300 students this year. Students served by the organization earn degrees at rates ten times higher than their peers, positioning them to earn 1 million dollars more over a lifetime. College Possible’s coaching sessions cover financial literacy, ACT/SAT test preparation and application support pre college. Once students enter college, coaches focus on budgeting skills, financial aid support, good study habits and addressing individual barriers to college graduation.
“Only eight percent of low-income students earn degrees. This is staggering when compared to the 73 percent of upper-income American kids who earn a college degree,” says Edie Turnbull, Executive Director of College Possible Milwaukee. “Educating our capable low-income students is not only the right thing to do; it is the only way to maintain our country’s strong workforce in a competitive global economy. We are thrilled to be partnering with the U.S. Department of Treasury to solve this problem.”
In a recent interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, College Possible student Robin Heider described her college experiences thus far at Johns Hopkins University, “I love it here,” she said. “The atmosphere gives me even more drive to want to be the best in my field.” Without the support of College Possible, Heider suggests, she would not have considered such a selective college, assuming the costs would be far too high.
A recent Harvard University evaluation shows that College Possible’s approach is effective and that students served are significantly more likely to enroll in a four year college. The study’s author, Dr. Chris Avery, commented, “Low-income students attend schools that offer them a small probability of graduating. They need to understand that colleges are often very affordable for them because of financial aid. College Possible has helped position these students for future success.”