College preparation programs were created with one goal in mind - helping students from all walks of life attend college. Programs range from mentoring to academic tutoring to test prep to academic and career counseling. Though there are many programs available, these programs sometimes fall short in meeting student needs.
Problems With College Prep
Not Enough Data and Absence of Feedback
There are few programs that follow students after they enter college to chart their level of success or get feedback about their prep program experience. Cash-strapped college prep programs rarely have the time, energy or resources to do adequate reflection of their work. Their claims of success rates are also rarely backed up by actual data. Reflection allows for innovation. Without either of those, programs are less likely to improve their offerings to students, or keep up with their needs. Students can be lost. Data is lost. And growth opportunities are lost.
Lack of Funding
As noted above, funding for education is always under siege and limited. These limits are actually passed on to the students in the form of limited resources and programs. Thus, students are given the “barebones” assistance that no one wants. Shrinking pools of funding often have programs changing their focus regularly to please private donors too. They begin existing on a grant to grant basis. This squelches all creative and innovative energy needed to challenge organizations to improve and thrive. Investment is required to excel.
To thrive in college prep it would seem natural for programs to have relationships with actual colleges and universities, right? Believe it or not, most programs don’t. Integration into these institutions is such an important part of the college prep and the actual college experience for students. Helping students transition from high school to their choice post-secondary institution is essential too. Without this assistance, students can be lost in a sea of change. And the organizations that got them there have lost that customer and the opportunity to learn from them.
What Are the Solutions?
Public funds offer programs stability that donor generated funds rarely can. This stability often leads to stronger programmatic structures, goals and achievements. These achievements translate into additional resources for the students. Moving away from private funding and into structured public funding sources can give college prep organizations a leg up in this very important (and desperately needed) industry.
Reaching out to colleges and universities using living, breathing and virtual networks, college prep organizations could bring students closer to their goals. These prep organizations would also benefit from collaborative networking opportunities themselves. They could learn, share, and grow new and innovative offerings for their own programs by asking for feedback from their collaborative partners.
With the development of data tracking systems, student achievement data can be coordinated and captured beyond the college acceptance process. College prep organizations would have a goldmine of information at their fingertips. This data could then be used to update, revise and innovate their programs, as well as inspire greater public funding sources. Investing in data systems and analysis can also encourage investment in institutional program evaluation and analysis too.
Together, these changes could propel college prep organizations and the students they help into the Ivy League!
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