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August 12, 2021

Financial Sustainability for College Promise Programs: Navigating Through and Beyond COVID-19 (Webinar)

Millions of Americans are currently impacted by a lack of career and economic mobility opportunities.  As we approach a new year aggressively challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded that for those Americans who were already struggling to make ends meet prior to the COVID upheaval, far too many experienced unparalleled stress and volatility in their lives. Across the country, millions of our most vulnerable youth and adults are missing from K-12 schools and college. Thousands of women have left their jobs to care for their families and loved ones in their homes. And many displaced workers are hesitant to pursue reskilling, college or career-technical training, while education leaders at all levels are working tirelessly to get students back on track. When taken together, these hurdles led College Promise to convene a webinar highlighting solutions to mitigate the realities faced by the nation’s 368 local and statewide Promise leaders.

On Thursday July 29, 2021, College Promise hosted Financial Sustainability for College Promise Programs: Navigating Through and Beyond COVID-19, a webinar that explored how Promise programs can tackle funding challenges and implement best practices and unique methods to maintain their financial sustainability.

The webinar was moderated by Dr. Michael Nettles, Senior Vice President & Edmund W. Gordon Chair, Policy Evaluation and Research, ETS and featured speakers Dr. Teresa Sommer, Co-Director, Northwestern University Two-Generation Research Initiative; Mr. David Rust, Executive Director, Say Yes Buffalo; and Dr. Martha Kanter, CEO, College Promise.

“The pandemic has shaken us all in every realm of life and in every aspect of education. College Promise initiatives are no exception. We are faced with the same needs today that we had prior to the pandemic and even more,” said Dr. Nettles, setting the context for the realities of College Promise programs.

Dr. Kanter provided an overview of College Promise, describing Promise programs around the country, including the ways different local and state funding streams have been impacted by the pandemic and how this has affected programs. “It's most important to help Promise programs create endowments from the private sector, [including from] high-net-worth individuals, private family foundations, and companies, to really protect the integrated revenue streams from the public sector,” she concluded.

Dr. Sommer then gave a presentation on the Two-Generation Research Initiative at Northwestern University, showcasing their family-centered strategies, designed to promote economic mobility. She described the framework and impacts of dual education and career programming for both students and their parents, to produce and reinforce a positive and productive multi-generational influence.

“We know that parents have the greatest influence on children's trajectories. They are the primary engine of healthy or unhealthy development for children; they serve as educational role models and we know that when you strengthen parents’ own skills, it's likely to have cascading, or what we would call long-term sustained, effects on children,” said Dr. Sommer.

The Two-Generation Initiative has seen substantial and sustained positive effects on parents, including upward trends in career advancement, improved financial circumstances, and psychological and emotional benefits including more positivity and optimism for the future. These parental effects also had positive outcomes for their children, with improvements in their school attendance and motivation.

Dr. Sommer also provided examples of Promise programs that have implemented such initiatives to increase their sustainability. She highlighted the Hope Toledo Promise that aims to improve not just individual student mobility, but intergenerational mobility for families in Toledo, Ohio. The program does this by offering four years of college scholarships and wraparound supports for the student and one of their parents.

Mr. David Rust then shared details about Say Yes Buffalo and the funding methods that have contributed toward their success over the past decade. “ a city like Buffalo, [the United States’] third poorest, large urban market, almost half the children live in poverty here, the city has had extreme racial and economic segregation which go hand in hand, no one entity can tackle that problem alone,” said Rust. With this in mind, under Rust’s leadership, Say Yes Buffalo has utilized a combination of different funding streams and cross-sector programs to produce the most effective results.

Say Yes Buffalo, Rust explained, offers financial aid, mentoring, and college academic transition assistance, also providing additional programming designed to ensure student success and outcomes. They work with K-12 public schools to offer parent centers, summer camps for young students, mental health clinics, social services, and case workers, among other services.  

The results in Buffalo due to this programming are evident. They have yielded a 23% overall increase in college enrollment rates and have increased college completion rates by 3%, a rate higher than that of New York state as a whole.

To continue its momentum, Mr. Rust explained, Say Yes Buffalo plans to launch an apprenticeship model that will allow students to receive on the job paid-training while they are studying at a postsecondary institution in the selected fields of  business operations, advanced manufacturing, information technology, or healthcare.

Finally, panelists opened a short Q&A to answer audience questions related to the existing programs and how other Promise programs can implement similar models to improve their financial sustainability. To view the entire session, find the video recording here.

Want to learn more about College Promise and our upcoming events? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, State of the Promise.


Want to learn more about College Promise and our upcoming events? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, State of the Promise.

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