A Coach for Every Low Income Student

Do you remember what inspired you to go to college?
Take a minute, think back, and see if you can recall the specific moment.
Maybe it was your first glimpse of a college campus near home.
Maybe a trusted teacher encouraged you to study a field you loved. Or maybe there is no one memory; maybe your path to college was made clear to you from your earliest days.

For too many promising low-income students, the aspiration and ability to attend college are not accompanied by the right guidance to get there and graduate. In America today, a student from an upper-income family is ten times more likely to earn a college degree than a student from a low-income household. We have many disparities in this country, but the scale of this disparity is truly striking in its magnitude. Moreover, with 65% of jobs requiring some kind of post-secondary education by 2020, the United States is locking hundreds of thousands of promising contributors out of the new economy.

Today, I was invited by former President Clinton to take the stage and commit, on behalf of College Possible, to eliminate this income-driven degree divide. In our 15 years of doing this work, we've learned that recent college graduates, acting as graduation coaches, offer an answer. They deliver hope, inspiration and personalized coaching to students. They help students prepare for the ACT, guide them toward colleges that fit their needs, prepare some more for the ACT and then dig in to financial aid and scholarship applications. Once students make it to colleges, coaches are at their side to support them through the social adjustment to campus life, to help them stay ahead of the continuous cycle of registration and financial aid paperwork and to offer a listening ear when they're feeling stressed, tired or like they don't belong.

Just imagine if there were thousands of these idealistic recent college graduates serving as coaches to low-income students, all across America. This is precisely what the folks at the 2016 Clinton Global Initiative America meeting threw their support behind today: efforts to build and catalyze a national network of coaches embedded on our country's college campuses. Leveraging their shared knowledge and using predictive data and analytics, coaches will know when and how to intervene with students in trouble. They will learn the unique dreams of each student and do whatever it takes to help make them real.

A conversation led by a former president is likely to shine a bright light on the degree divide. It's my great hope that this center-stage moment is only a beginning, one that will set in motion the changes needed to build a stronger graduating class--rich with economic diversity--to walk across America's commencement stages next spring and every year to come. I can imagine that these students, just moments from claiming their diplomas, will feel a lot like I do today. Nervous, thrilled and--above all--confident and supported in their vision for the future.