College Access: Research and Action (CARA) was founded to support the college access work of schools, community-based organizations, and universities. Using educational reform and youth leadership strategies, CARA works with a variety of partners to create responsive and effective programs. By bringing together a range of people, institutions and perspectives, CARA leverages best practices, young peoples’ lived experiences, and existing resources to develop programs that help students from low-income backgrounds explore post-secondary options and navigate the multiple obstacles to college acceptance, matriculation and success.
At CARA, we take what we learn through our programs to inform both policy and research. We work to improve the systems, structures, and practices that guide young people to successful and satisfying post-secondary educational outcomes, particularly in our home city of New York.
Why We Do What We Do
- 95% of all high school students have college aspirations
- 55% of high school graduates from low-income families enroll in college in comparison to 84% from high-income families (NCES, Condition of Education, 2011);
- 8% of 24 year olds from low-income backgrounds have attained a Bachelors Degree in comparison to 82% of 24 year olds from high-income backgrounds (Postsecondary Opportunity, 2010)
Understanding the gap:
Low-income students and their families encounter many challenges as they try to realize their college aspirations. Among them:
- Lack of guidance and support in many schools that serve first generation college-bound students;
- Inadequate access to knowledge about the landscape of college and the application and financial aid processes;
- The growing complexity of the college application and enrollment process;
- The difficulty of paying for college;
- The overwhelming nature of the financial aid process, and families’ fears about taking on extensive debt in an uncertain economy;
- Insufficient access to coursework that prepares students for the academic challenges of college.
CARA’s work is designed to address these challenges.