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September 2, 2020

Ecosystems of Student Support

College Promise and ETS Announce Launch of New Report on Five Key Student Populations

College Promise and ETS Policy Evaluation & Research Center announce the launch of a new series of research reports on “Depicting the Ecosystems of Support and Financial Sustainability for Five College Promise Populations.” In support of these reports, College Promise is releasing five new policy briefs, each focused on a unique student population: traditional-aged students, adult students, student veterans, undocumented students, and justice-impacted students.

All students operate within a network of different environmental and social conditions and fields. The domains of education, workforce, social service, health, and finance intersect to shape how students get to, through, and beyond college. A deeper understanding of targeted segments of today’s post-secondary student population can improve outcomes for students in College Promise programs. To best support all students and increase equitable access to education, we need to know our students better. And then, we need to design our programs with their needs in mind.

To meet the needs of the nation’s 16.7 million undergraduate students, recognizing the diversity of our population and their unique learning needs is essential. Almost half of students are over 25 and work to pay basic bills. The majority of first year students live off campus. A quarter of students have children and more than 40% live at or near the poverty line.

“Given the unique backgrounds and realities of our students’ day to day experiences, the barriers to their success vary widely. The COVID-19 pandemic has exemplified the need for better targeted student support systems that increase the effectiveness of Promise programs. To bolster impact, especially now, communities must work together with greater trust and efficiencies across education, business, philanthropy, government, and non-profit organizations,” said Rosye Cloud of College Promise.

It is with this understanding that College Promise and Educational Testing Service (ETS) engaged in the multi-year Ecosystems of Support initiative to better understand the wrap around supports and services various student populations need to thrive in college. Five different ecosystem sub-populations were examined: Traditional Students (High School to College - predominantly First Generation); New and Returning Adult Students; DREAMers; Student Veterans; and Justice-Impacted Students. Design teams composed of scholars who are subject matter experts, as well as practitioners and finance experts for each population, collaborated to produce final reports for each topic area.

“This report allowed us to take a comprehensive look at some of the unique challenges that impact diverse student populations, but it also provided an opportunity for us to reimagine new opportunities to better support these students,” said Catherine M. Millett, Senior Research Scientist for the ETS Policy Evaluation & Research Center.  

An integrated compendium of these first five Promise Ecosystem Initiative reports was presented to national research, policy, and Promise practitioner experts in Princeton, NJ in 2019. The event brought together 70 Promise leaders and cross-sector stakeholders to provide feedback to better serve these diverse Promise student populations. The Ecosystem findings were released as a formal publication in August of 2020.

“We must commit to a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of our nation’s students. Their day to day realities are not left at the door when entering a classroom. Now more than ever, we are prioritizing the voices of our nation’s students, for all of us to listen, learn, and better meet their college and career needs. College Promise is excited to host a four part webinar series this month for students and their supporters,” said Martha Kanter, CEO of College Promise. “The virtual discussions will aim to widen attendees' understanding of the diverse needs and experiences of College Promise populations in order to help Promise leaders and their partners increase student success.”

For more information on Ecosystems of Student Supports and the role College Promise programs can play, read the full report or our collection of policy briefs (traditional students, adult students, undocumented students, student veterans, and justice-impacted students).

For more information on our Lessons for Student Success webinar series, register here.

A very special thanks to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ascendium Education Group, the Kresge Foundation, ECMC Foundation, and Strada Education Network for their generous support of our student ecosystem work.

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