College Hub: Supported Pathways for Low-Income, Nontraditional Students

The College Hub empowers those who face barriers to higher education so that all students in Central Texas can realize their goals.

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Eligibility

  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States

Gender

  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

Texas: Austin (78741)
Texas: Round Rock (78665)
Texas: San Marcos (78666)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

10/01/2016

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Budget

  • $250k - $500k

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

Over our 10 years of helping students apply for financial aid, we found that many students would come back for broader assistance with paying for school and navigating college. While financial aid is important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle students have to solve when figuring out how to pay for and succeed in college. Our meetings with partner organizations confirmed the need to help nontraditional students access and complete higher education. Two years ago, we realized that as a nonprofit organization with a range of financial programs and extensive partnerships, we could step into this role to help the larger Central Texas community figure out how to help low-income, nontraditional students achieve their educational goals.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Nontraditional students comprise a growing percentage of the college population but often have less access to financial resources and counselors. Also, many have financial holds that prevent them from accessing financial aid, or they use their limited resources to take classes that don’t lead to a degree. This leads to high levels of debt and low levels of college completion, creating more burdens than opportunities.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We partner with local colleges to create clear pathways to and through college for low-income, nontraditional students. Any student can come to the College Hub for one-on-one support, and students who want to receive ongoing, individualized, wraparound support can apply for our Succeed Initiative. Our Student Success Coaches work with each Succeed student to develop an individualized plan outlining their educational goals and anticipated barriers. Coaches work with each student to complete financial aid applications, apply for scholarships, and develop a plan for bridging the gap between financial aid and the cost of college. We also offer a matched savings program through which we match students’ savings at a rate of 3:1, up to $1,500. Beyond helping students directly access funding, our coaches help students set up appointments with a designated financial coach and sign up for financial workshops to help them create a budget, build their savings, and make informed financial decisions. Throughout this process, we work with dedicated staff at higher education institutions to share data and provide academic support.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

After Brian was released from prison, he wanted a fresh start and learned about the College Hub. During his first meeting with the Student Success Coordinator (SSC), Brian was reluctant because of previous struggles to stay in school. The SSC helped him complete the FAFSA, and Brian was surprised to learn that he qualified to receive $5,920. Securing this funding and receiving support from the SSC gave Brian the confidence to follow his dream of pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Graphic Art. Brian worried about not being able to balance work and school, so applied for Succeed and worked with the SSC to map out a pathway to financial stability and college graduation. As a member of Succeed, Brian set a savings goal and received a savings match to help fund his education. He has achieved a 3.75 GPA, received a Scholastic Excellence award, and is eager to finish his degree in spring 2019.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

Our College Hub is co-located within our two Financial Centers in Austin. At each site, we provide one-on-one financial coaching, money management classes, scholarship mentoring, free tax prep assistance, health insurance enrollment, and incentivized savings alongside College Hub services. This co-location ensures students can easily access the products and services they need to manage their financial lives. College Hub coaches facilitate access to each of these products and services.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

At the College Hub, we provide neutrality and flexibility that local colleges and other nonprofit organizations are not able to provide. We work with students regardless of which school they plan to attend or what degree they plan to pursue. We recognize that students are the primary drivers of their educational, professional, and financial goals, and we meet them where they are. We coordinate service delivery with local colleges and nonprofit partners, and we engage in ongoing conversations with partners to ensure we are filling a gap in services and helping develop best practices.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In 2017, our College Hub staff and volunteers helped 1,059 students complete financial aid and scholarship applications, which resulted in more than $3.9 million in awards. Additionally, we provided intensive, wraparound support services to a cohort of 40 students during our pilot period of the Succeed Initiative. Of the 40 students who started the fall semester, 90% completed the semester, and 75% persisted to the spring semester. Of the 30 students who enrolled in the spring, 100% completed the semester. Across the Succeed cohort, students received more than $14,000 in savings matches to help them finance their education. Our students, partner organizations, and evaluator agree that the Succeed pilot was very effective and are excited to work with us to expand the cohort to serve 100 students during the 2018-19 academic year.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

We are expanding the size of our Succeed cohort to 100 students for the 2018-19 academic year: 20 students from year 1, 60 students at Austin Community College (large local community college), and 20 students at Texas State University (large local four-year university). We are partnering with these institutions and other local partners to identify and recruit students who would be a good fit.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have secured funding from multiple local foundations and will continue to develop relationships with local and state foundations and pursue collaborative funding opportunities with local partners. Also, our diversified funding makes our work highly sustainable, and we have an active and strategic fundraising team that works to secure funding from individuals and institutions.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The College Hub team is comprised of 5 full-time staff members and 1 part-time staff member. The College Hub Manager provides strategic direction to the team and oversees all aspects of service delivery. The two Student Success Coordinators and two Student Success Coaches work one-on-one with students. All team members have in-depth financial aid knowledge and experience working with low-income nontraditional students.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 25%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 50%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 75%

Idea Originality - 25%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 25%

Impact measurement - 25%

Impact Potential - 25%

Financial Sustainability - 25%

Team - 25%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 25%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 33.3%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 0%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 66.7%

Potential to scale - 100%

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Anna

This is a fantastic idea! It is so important to recognize the financial burdens of education that are not addressed by financial aid. We were wondering about the wraparound services in the Succeed program. We understand that it's too early to evaluate success based on graduation rates, but were wondering if you are involved in advising students (who often have low access to advisory services in community colleges) to make sure they are on track to graduate on time? We think it's really cool that you focus on non-traditional students. Thanks!

Photo of Kori

Thanks for your comment and interest in the College Hub! We do provide advising, both directly and in partnership with advising staff at Austin Community College (ACC), to help students develop a plan for completing a degree and make sure they're on track to graduate. We also have a data-sharing agreement with ACC that allows them to share student data with us so that we know how many college credits a student has and how they're doing in their classes, so we can provide immediate and relevant support when students are struggling.