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July 7, 2021

Expanding Promise Symposium Day 1: Designing Ecosystems of Support for College Promise Populations

On June 2nd, 2021, College Promise and ETS held day one of the Expanding Promise Symposium, a virtual event centered around the findings of five research design teams examining the wrap-around supports and financial sustainability solutions that best aid and enable different groups of students to enter and persist to, through, and beyond college into living-wage jobs and community life. The symposium brought together students, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and other Promise stakeholders to review and discuss scholarly insights for five key student populations: First-Generation Students, Youth In or Aged-Out of Foster Care, Students with Disabilities, Student Parents, and Students Needing Academic Support.

Day one of the Expanding Promise Symposium focused on Promise program design options for specific student populations and opened with remarks from Dr. Michael Nettles (ETS), Dr. Catherine Millett (ETS), and Dr. Martha Kanter (College Promise). They introduced the event discussing social impacts grown from collaborative efforts to build trust, establish commitments to shared goals, and enable Promise leadership teams across the country to design, implement, and fund sustainable Promise programs tailored to meet the needs of specific student populations. They emphasized the necessity of building Promise programs intentionally designed to increase equitable pathways for students to enter and persist through college into rewarding careers and community life.

The first session, Students at the Center: Weighing In On College Promise Ecosystem Designs, featured a panel of students discussing the unique challenges they met and overcame during their higher education journey. The panel was hosted by Alex Shebanow, Director of Fail State, and featured Martin Hernandez of Alamo Colleges District, Timari Ray of Pellissippi State Community College, Angelique Salizan of Binghamton University, Emily Tarconish of the University of Connecticut, and Waukecha Wilkerson of Sacramento State University.

Wilkerson, a student parent, reflected on the current state of student support services: “We expect students to go and find services and then sign up for them when it should be the other way around… so there’s an opt-out option as opposed to an opt-in. That way you capture students who need the services who maybe don’t even know they exist.”

The following session, In Conversation: Postsecondary Perspectives on the Role of College Promise in Supporting Different Student Populations, was moderated by Michael Nettles, Senior Vice President & Edmund W. Gordon Chair of Policy Evaluation and Research at ETS, and featured insights from Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers University-Newark, Constance Carroll, Chancellor of San Diego Community College, and Dr. Michael Flores, Chancellor of Alamo Colleges District. The panelists discussed the significant impacts Promise programs have on the specific, diverse student populations they serve.

The first day of the symposium concluded with remarks from a special guest: The Honorable William Haslam, Former Governor of Tennessee. Governor Haslam shared his experience starting the Knox Promise in Tennessee, tnAchieves, and his reflections on the potential of Promise programs. Governor Haslam’s goal is to shift the conversation from college being unattainable to more hopeful messaging. As Haslam said, community colleges open up the realms of possibilities for student populations, and he believes Promise programs should have the resources to provide wraparound supports that will uplift students to succeed to, through, and beyond college.

To watch the full day of sessions, find the recording here. To learn more about the ETS and College Promise Ecosystems initiatives, visit the event webpage here.

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