What is it about Super Bowl weekend and getting kids into college? On Saturday the LA Convention Center is hosting The Black College Expo. On Sunday, the Fulfillment Fund hosts a party that’s part football, part focused on education. No doubt, both organizations must be pumped up after President Obama’s call for free tuition for community college students.
While the President is on offense Republicans are on defense. Meaning, the GOP is likely to block attempts to fund the idea calling it too costly and no guaranteed return. Fulfillment Fund CEO Kenny Rogers admits to a tough opponent, keeping kids IN college. A New York Times opinion article says “Community college dropout rates now hover somewhere between 66 percent and 80 percent.”
Still, the ball is in play and the idea of higher education is front and center. The Black College Expo is expecting 15-thousand people at the L.A. event.
Rogers says for the Obama idea to work there must be a game plan to curb that college dropout rate. The Fulfillment Fund aims to get inner-city kids into college and THROUGH college. The organization does long-term mentoring and credits constant communication with keeping kids from low-income families from falling off.
Tips for surviving community college:
1. Ask for help often – In focus group with first year students we found that one of the most difficult lessons learned by our students was that they were not asking for help until it was too late to change the outcome.
2. Use your campus resources- College is about more than going to class. Students who are most connected to their campus persist at higher rates. Find what interests you and follow through. Many campuses have retention programs that have added perks like book stipends, extra advisors, and tutoring services aimed at helping you graduate.
3. Secure financial aid early – One of the most common reasons students “melt” (don’t go on to college after gaining admission) is that their financial aid doesn’t come through on time. Many times it’s because the student is not checking his/her campus portal and as a result is leaving important messages unanswered. Applying for FAFSA/ Dream Act early and keeping up with the university’s requests can help prevent these undesired outcomes.
4. Find at least three people that can help you when things don’t go to plan (Advisors, Professors, School Support Staff, Mentors)- Students who come out of difficult situations unscathed are the ones who have a support network that can help them navigate the system.
5. Get new tools in your toolkit- Students who go to college thinking that the same work habits that have gotten them through high school will work in college have a reality check coming their way. Success comes to students who are able to make adjustments quickly based on new expectations.
Fulfillment Fund founders, Dr. Gary Gitnick(UCLA School of Medicine) and his wife Cherna, are so passionate about this topic that they fold in a little information with their football. Each year, they open up their Encino home to a who’s who in education and politics. I’m talking LA County supervisors, the Mayor, state lawmakers, education reformers, school board members. The trash talk here will also be about the state of education in California.
Oh, yes. The big game will be on the big screens. The food will be fabulously fun. Yet, at half-time they won’t be watching. The TV’s go off and educational information is on. A powerful panel will chat up teaching tools while the rest of nation watches Katy Perry perform.
With the President’s State of the Union call for change in funding higher education this game is just beginning and a playbook is in the works.