- Institution Type: Non-Profit working with Public High Schools
- Topic: College Access and Transition
- Region: New York City
College Access: Research & Action (CARA) has worked in over 80 public high schools in NYC since 2011 with the goal of ensuring that first-generation-to-college students, low-income students, and students of color have the knowledge and support necessary to enroll in and graduate from college. CARA helps transform the cultures of educational institutions by training a wide range of people within those communities to support all of their students to and through college, and by providing curricula to help young people build knowledge about college, strengthen navigational skills, and develop multicultural college-going identities.
Beginning in 2015, Grouptrail worked with CARA’s College Bridge program to develop Enroll NYC (Enroll). The College Bridge program addresses the gap in college guidance by training current college students, called Bridge Coaches, to support graduating high school students during their senior year and the summer before they matriculate into college. During the school year, coaches work in the college office alongside schools’ college counselors and conduct workshops with seniors. They then work one-on-one with students over the summer, helping graduates to complete final financial aid forms, figure out how to pay for textbooks, arrange transportation to college, and register for classes.
In 2015, the College Bridge team was working with about 30 high schools, and about to expand their model from a focus on the college transition, to supporting high school seniors throughout the year from application through enrollment. At the time, they were using Google Sheets to track the more than 28 steps it takes for a student to enroll in college after they hit submit on their applications, and soon they would also need to track the complete application process — for anywhere from 100 to 400 seniors per high school. This would be burdensome to do with Google Sheets, and tools like Salesforce, Naviance and Social Solutions would all have been cost and time prohibitive. CARA needed a more efficient and user-friendly tool to support the work shared by the college counselors and their coaches. There were three main goals that CARA hoped to achieve by working with FMYI:
- Easy scaling: from tracking 28 to over 75 tasks, over the course of a whole year.
- Save counselors and coaches time as they are updating student records and identifying students who need follow up.
- Relieve the time and cost of manually creating reports for each school numerous times per year.
Together we developed a student focused tracking tool that organized all of the necessary student tasks into four to-do lists: College Readiness, Applications and Admission, Financial Aid, and Enrollment. Counselors and Coaches could now track each of these steps on a student’s page, or update them for multiple students at a time from their dashboard. We also developed multiple reports to track both completion of tasks and progress through them.
Enroll has helped CARA to create a clear set of metrics that is common across their schools and programs, and eliminated the cost of running individual reports for schools. And after piloting Enroll, its use has expanded beyond College Bridge and is now being used in two more of CARA’s programs: Right to College and College Inquiry.
At the school level, Enroll has helped CARA build the capacity of college offices and college coaches because, as Shaquinah Taylor Wright, the Director of College Bridge put it:
“Enroll is really, really straightforward - it shows you where students are and where they need to be. And, it allows counselors to take ownership over data and to share ownership with other staff. In real time [counselors and staff] can see what students need and respond.”
Using Enroll has helped college counselors share information more widely with teachers, essential in establishing a distributed model of counseling and has allowed principals to better understand the work of the college office and the needs of their students during the application process. Another unexpected benefit has been the help with staff transitions. Whether on short term leave or transitioning to a new school, Enroll allows counselors to leave a transparent record of student progress so that other staff can easily pick up where they left off.
CARA is also as an organization with a focus on research and policy and has been a key influencer on the NYC Department of Education’s, College Access for All Initiative, focused on creating postsecondary pathways for all students. Using Enroll will allow CARA to dig deeper into understanding key benchmarks that may lead to increased rates of postsecondary enrollment and share this not only across their own programs but also with the wider community in NYC and beyond.
By Ariela Friedman: