Tagged: The Coalition

The Coalition Roller Coaster

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In earlier posts (for instance, here and here), this blog has honed in on the newly-formed Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. Remember those 80+ schools that are “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree”? The Coalition’s goals are certainly admirable – I don’t think anyone would dispute that. However, since its formation, The Coalition has found itself on a bit of a roller coaster ride, including as the recipient of some harsh criticism at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference in San Diego last month.

Roller Coaster

 

Since early October, their project has proven to be a dynamic, ever-changing, work-in-progress. For instance, the original roll-out date for The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016. “That was in early October”, you may be thinking. “What has happened since then?” An excellent question!

One of the themes that seems to keep rearing from the dark depths of the college counseling waters is the notion that starting the college admissions process when students are only 9th graders is simply too early in a teen’s high school career, and that it will only serve to create even more stress and angst for teens and their families. As one college counseling association stated in a letter to The Coalition, “Based on all adolescent development models, starting to ‘collect items’ and for parents to ‘obsess’ in the 9th grade will most likely produce significant concern/anxiety over the college process at a time when all of our students’ focus should be on the growth of their personal and academic selves.” The Coalition, on the other hand, has made it clear that “the purpose of familiarizing students with the process at an early age should minimize stress during the actual application process and provide a counseling resource for low-income applicants.” Who is right?

Another recent development is that Georgetown University declined to join The Coalition due to their belief that it “makes applying to colleges more complicated and less helpful to low-income students.”  What?! The Coalition’s website, in contrast, states, “The Coalition is developing a platform of tools to help reduce these barriers (to attending college and completing a college degree) and make progress in leveling the playing field for students from all backgrounds.” Who is right?

And so the roller coaster ride continues, and it may take some time before we’re able to determine whether statements from The Coalition or its critics prove more in-line with reality. But don’t despair! I leave you on a hopeful note, namely that the very fact that we’re thinking about these issues and having these conversations is a good thing. As this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education (aptly entitled, “Why The Debate Over A New Admissions Process Matters”) states, “In a field defined by age-old rituals, The Coalition has, at the very least, inspired a conversation about how the experience of applying to college could be different.”

The Coalition is confident that the changes it proposes will lead to hugely positive developments in the world of college admissions. Others aren’t so sure. Who is right? Will this roller coaster ride end with its riders feeling energized and proud of what they’ve accomplished or queasy and full of regret for having embarked in the first place?

Curious to learn more?  Click here!

A Work In Progress

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Do you remember the post I wrote eight days ago called “Admissions Revamped“?  It was about the 80+ schools that make up The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and how they’re “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.”  And do you remember how I wrote bullet points highlighting what you need to know about The Coalition? One of those important points was, “Know that the portfolio feature and interactive tools will be rolled out in January and that the application system will be ready to go in the summer of 2016.” Well, dear readers, though that was indeed the case eight days ago (back when the “college locker” was still called “the portfolio“), circumstances have now changed – and I, of course, want to keep you in-the-know!  While the new application system is still on-track to be released in the summer of 2016, the release of The Coalition’s online tools has been moved from January to April of 2016.  Why?

It turns out that there is a LOT of criticism about this new initiative to revamp admissions.  My earlier post touched on the fact that in order for colleges to be eligible for membership in The Coalition, they have to meet specified requirements, such as graduating at least 70% of their students within six years.  However, the reality is that many colleges that serve a disproportionately high number of disadvantaged students (those who the work of The Coalition is supposed to most benefit – think first generation students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those lacking guidance in the admissions process, and those facing other barriers to enrolling in and graduating from college) don’t, in fact, meet the membership requirements – and why not?  Well, because they’re serving high numbers of disadvantaged students!  You can see how this creates difficulties…

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Further, some critics are skeptical of the motives behind the new initiative (e.g. that The Coalition’s members are simply out to find even more applicants for their schools).  Another concern expressed by college counselors is that all of this is moving forward too quickly, and that a January 2016 release date is just too soon.  The Coalition, while denying sketchy motives, has listened to these concerns about the proposed time line and adjusted their plans accordingly.  As The Coalition’s Board of Directors wrote in a recent e-mail to college counselors, the delay will “allow for more time to engage and answer questions, and for counselors to be closer to finishing their work with the current senior class.”  Furthermore, members of The Coalition’s board haven’t hesitated in putting on the table the fact that the initiative is an undertaking prone to change.  Just last week, at the NACAC’s 71st National Conference, Audrey Smith (one of the aforementioned board members), said, “We are a work in progress.  We see this as an iterative process and we will be adjusting based on the feedback that we receive from all quarters.”  In other words, stay tuned!

Admissions Revamped

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Oxford Dictionaries defines revamp as “An act of improving the form, structure, or appearance of something.”  So, what exactly does revamp look like in the context of college admissions?  We need wait no more, dear readers – the answer is upon us!  In an article entitled “Admissions Revolution“, Inside Higher Ed dives into the deep end of the recent news that over eighty leading institutions of higher learning, including ALL of the Ivies and their friends (click here for the full list of members, all of whom graduate at least 70% of their students within 6 years), have developed a new — and free — admissions application platform to rival the Common Application.  It’s a revolution!

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These 80+ schools, together, make up the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, and they will be “working over the next few months to develop tools and processes that will help to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.” Very cool!

What do you need to know about The Coalition?  Read on…

  • Membership numbers in the coalition are dynamic, with additional schools expected to join – stay tuned!  Know also that, as was pointed out in the IHE article, those colleges “that engage in ‘gapping’, in which some admitted students are not provided enough aid to attend, will not be allowed to join.”
  • The Coalition’s work consists of three pillars: 1) A free, digital portfolio for all high school students, one that they can begin adding flair (i.e. things that they’re proud of) to as early as 9th grade.  2) A collaboration platform that students can use to communicate with those who can provide them with guidance and support, including prospective colleges.  3) A new application system through which students will add basic factual information to share with all the colleges to which they’re applying, but that will also have unique sections to complete for each individual school.  
  • If you are currently a senior in high school, none of this is applicable to you.  However, if you’re a junior, sophomore, or freshmen in high school, know that the portfolio feature and interactive tools will be rolled out in January and that the application system will be ready to go in the summer of 2016.
  • Coalition members will continue to offer prospective students the option of applying using the Common Application – click here for a recent PBS article that delves more deeply into this.
  • Finally, The Coalition’s own website informs us that, in terms of the driving forces spurring them on in their work:

“A growing amount of research has shown that students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not participate effectively in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid, and often do not get awarded all the financial aid they qualify for. As a result, even some of the most highly qualified students do not attend college, attend colleges that do not engage their full potential, or do not complete their degrees. The Coalition is developing a platform of tools to help reduce these barriers and make progress in leveling the playing field for students from all backgrounds.”

Leveling the college admissions playing field is one of the goals that drives Admitster as well (see, for instance, herehere, and here), and any steps toward the goals of improving opportunities and increasing access to higher education are, in my opinion, positive developments!  This new initiative, however, is already meeting with some criticism.  For example, the Common Application’s Director of Development, Aba Blankson, makes the point that, “Many of these (first generation) students enroll at colleges that, in part because they serve many disadvantaged students, don’t have the graduation rates to be eligible for the coalition.”  It’s a point to consider.

It remains to be seen how this story will unfold, but we at Admitster are viewing this cup as half full and hope for great things from this admissions revolution.  Should these changes prove to improve the admissions process, thus qualifying it as a true revamping of the system, and should college truly become more “affordable and accessible for students from diverse backgrounds”, as was stated in The Coalition’s press release, we shall be very glad of it!  I get the feeling that this may be the first of many posts about the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success – wheels are turning, things are happening, change is in the air!