Only Nationwide College Application Assistance Initiative Noted As Key Component in Drive to Increase Number of First-generation, Low-income Students Pursuing Postsecondary Degree
As President Obama proclaims November National College Application Month, the only nationwide college application initiative is in the midst of a record-setting year.
The American College Application Campaign® (ACAC) is reaching 230,000 students in some 4,000 high schools in all 50 states this fall, focusing on first-generation and low-income students who otherwise would not apply for college. Projections show that within six to eight years, 80 percent of all high schools in the nation will participate.
ACE convened a national steering committee of government and non-profit education leaders in 2010 to turn ACAC into a nationwide initiative.
“The American College Application Campaign has grown in exponential fashion to become a key part of the national drive to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students who pursue a postsecondary education,” said Martha Kanter, a former U.S. under secretary of education and a member of the ACAC steering committee. “When President Obama proclaimed November as National College Application Month, he noted that a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life. The American College Application Campaign is providing states, communities and schools across the country with the necessary tools to help place hundreds of thousands of young people on that path.”
After being launched in a single North Carolina high school in 2005, adoption of the campaign has accelerated in the last two years, doubling the number of states participating since 2012. Last fall, 39 states and the District of Columbia participated, involving over 2,500 schools, 150,000 students and 220,000 college applications.
“ACAC has sparked a strong response nationally because it is an effective way to help meet national college attainment goals, produce the well-educated work force that this country needs to compete globally and ensure our colleges and universities have access to a diverse pool of applicants,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “ACAC is committed to helping high school seniors navigate the college admissions process and ensuring that each participating student submits at least one college application. The enthusiasm and deep commitment at the state level have been central to the exciting traction we are experiencing.”
ACAC’s national visibility also has been on the rise. National and local media outlets across the country have reported on its impact over the past two falls, including The Associated Press and The Washington Post.
By 2020, ACAC is projected to reach 80 percent of high schools nationwide, resulting in the participation of 1.5 million students. In North Carolina, where ACAC reaches about 85 percent of all public high schools, 74 percent of students who participate in the program ultimately enroll in college.
“The process of applying to college can be daunting for many students,” said Bobby Kanoy, an ACE senior fellow who helped launch the program in North Carolina as an associate vice president in the University of North Carolina system. “The American College Application Campaign works to remove the barriers that might prevent first-generation and low-income students from applying to a postsecondary institution.”
Individual state application assistance events occur throughout the fall at high schools, during the school day. The goal is to create the opportunity for all seniors to submit at least one application.
The campaigns are run independently in each state, organized by public and private entities with technical assistance from ACAC. Seed funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation and The Kresge Foundation. Bank of America, the College Board and USA Funds also have been supporters.
Richard W. Riley, former South Carolina governor and former U.S. secretary of education, also is among the national figures who have lauded ACAC. "We must embrace bold initiatives that will increase the education level of our citizens,” Riley said. “These exciting College Application Day events will enhance the college-going culture within South Carolina and throughout our nation."
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