I grew up with the concept that each generation would be more successful than the generation before. “Successful” means achieving more, learning more, earning more, and contributing more to society.
Here’s what we know:
For the first time in many generations, young people are not entering or succeeding in post-secondary education as successfully as the previous generation. This fact is a pivot point that, if mitigated, could change the trajectory of poverty in this country.
Even as many in our millennial generation eschews higher education for entrepreneurship, the fact still remains that a college degree translates into higher earning power. For those living in low-income households, attaining a college degree is particularly challenging. Often parents in these households have themselves not attended college, so there is no assumption or expectation that a child would go. In addition, the expense of college often proves to be too big a burden for a household struggling to make ends meet. For these households, a financial emergency—even one as low as $400—a broken car, for example, could upset a balanced budget and in dire circumstances—a true reality for many—be the difference between living in a home and being homeless. In these cases, college expense is an unaffordable luxury.
But here’s what else we know:
If a child has anywhere from $1-$499 set aside in a savings account, she or he is three times more likely to attend college. And that same young person is four times more likely to graduate from college. If the savings account is specifically earmarked for college those statistics are even higher: children are four times more likely to attend college and six times more likely to graduate.
At Fedcap, we are continually looking at precise interventions that will interfere with the trajectory of economic instability. For example, we created PrepNOW!™ and Get Ready!™ specifically to disrupt the assumption that young people in low-income families could not attend college, graduate and compete in high level successful careers. PrepNOW!™ was designed to help parents –including foster parents—create a college-going environment in a household where college may not have been an assumption or expectation. These interactive web based courses, facilitated by a success coach—help raise awareness and offers specific tools to support young people as they apply and enter college, persist and graduate. Get Ready!™ helps prepare young people ready for post-secondary education and career success by understanding the foundational skills necessary to present themselves, to communicate, and to aspire for goals previously considered unattainable. These programs have proven to be wildly successful, and I am happy to report, are being replicated throughout the country.
These innovations, along with those that create strategies for young people to set aside monies for college from the earliest ages, are how transformation happens. Setting expectations that a child will go to college is a well-researched predictor of her application and matriculation. Filtering these assumptions and expectations into all of our systems—early education providers, K-12 schools, libraries, community centers, healthcare centers, houses of worship, the workplace—and backing awareness with easy-to-access programs—is one way we can alter the trajectory of poverty.
Putting these innovations in place is how we ensure relevant, sustainable impact and it is how we ensure that the power of possible is manifested as concrete, attainable step to economic well-being.
I welcome your thoughts.