A college application assistance campaign that began in a single North Carolina high school in 2005 is reaching almost 200,000 students in all 50 states this fall, focusing on those who otherwise would not apply for college.
The goal of the American College Application Campaign® (ACAC) is to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students pursuing a college degree or other higher education credential. ACAC also helps students take the first step in applying for federal student aid.
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. About 10 percent of public high schools nationwide currently participate and accessible web-based resources are helping spur broad-scale growth.
ACE convened a national steering committee of government and non-profit education leaders in 2010 to turn ACAC into a nationwide initiative.
"There is a national imperative to ensure that more Americans gain access to the high-quality postsecondary education needed to successfully navigate today's global economy," said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. "The American College Application Campaign is a key part of ACE's drive to help meet national college attainment goals."
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."
"If you are low-income and think there is no way, there is a way," said 21-year-old Garrett Seay of Sturgis, KY, who says his state's campaign helped him apply to the University of Louisville, where he now is a junior. "That's why I always want to talk about Application Week. It should be in every school and every kid should have the ability to look up to someone and say, 'How do I do this? How do I get help?' There is no way I would have made it to college without it."
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.
"We must embrace bold initiatives that will increase the education level of our citizens," said Richard W. Riley, former South Carolina governor and former U.S. secretary of education. "These exciting College Application Day events will enhance the college-going culture within South Carolina and throughout our nation."
"College is a priority in Tennessee, and we believe it is a realistic goal for all of our students," said Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise, the state's program that provides two years of community college tuition-free. "We have seen great success with College Application Week and what it does to provide our students with an opportunity to apply to college and plan for their futures."
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.