28% of students who enter public community college graduate from that institution within 3 years and 62% who enter four-year public college graduate within 6 years.

A Peer-to-Peer Approach to Improving College Retention

CARA’s College Allies program addresses college retention for first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color by positioning trained college students on campuses to support their peers through the obstacles to graduation. We do this by working with institutions of higher education to create sustainable programs that can be scaled so that all students receive the supports needed to persist.

Through clearly defined benchmarks designed around critical retention tasks, Peer Leaders help first year and transfer students to overcome the myriad of obstacles they face in college: registering for courses, securing needed-services, navigating financial aid, declaring a major, transferring credits, developing a sense of belonging, among other things. They do this through:

  • Outreach to students via phone, text, virtual meetings, and in person
  • Hosting one- on-one and small groups meetings
  • Planning and facilitating targeted skill-building workshops and community building events
  • Connecting students to online navigational tools and resources (e.g. degree audits, course registration, Blackboard)

Peer Leaders themselves are provided important career exploration and development opportunities through their role, acquiring a range of skills specific to working in higher education, as well as transferable skills for future career success.

College Allies Program Model

  • CARA provides Peer Leaders with 70+ hours of training where they develop the skills and knowledge to support students with critical retention tasks, help them to develop campus navigation skills, and ensure that they integrate into their campus community. Training includes, but is not limited to the following:

    College Environment and Fit
    -Landscape of College Access & Success
    -Critical Benchmarks for Student Persistence
    -Creating A Sense of Community in College
    -Summer Melt and Winter Freeze

    Paying for College
    -Understanding Sources of Financial Aid & Financial Aid Challenges
    -FAFSA Refile Process
    -Appeals, SAP and TAP

    Navigating College Systems
    -Campus Vocabulary & Resources
    -Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Academic Success
    -Degree Planning
    -The Transfer Process

    Counseling & Communication Skills
    -Counseling Skills
    -Data Tracking
    -Outreach and Engagement Strategies
    -Proactive Caseload Management 

    Career Pathway Development
    -Supporting Students with Major/Career Exploration
    -Professional Capacities
    -Resume Development

    Peer Leadership for College Success Core Competencies

    Peer Leadership for College Access & Success Career Capacities

  • CARA collaborates with on-campus and community partners to help support the integration of Peer Leaders into existing retention programming.

    CARA assists Peer Leader supervisors by providing professional development to:

    • Support Peer Leaders day to day work and professional development using a youth development framework
    • Develop a site based plan to integrate Peer Leaders into campus structures and practice
  • CARA supports campus leadership to integrate a peer-to-peer component into their student support and retention efforts campus-wide.

    This includes:

    • Consulting to program leadership to create a sustainable best practice peer-to-peer component of their model
    • Supporting the development of data tracking and evaluation tools
    • Developing systems to sustain Peer Leadership including hiring, training, supervision, scheduling, and securing stable sources of Peer Leader pay

How College Allies Works

See College Allies’s Program Rubric

See our Theory of Change Model

Hire and Support Peer Leaders

Recruit and hire peer leaders to work 10-12 hours/week

Pay Peer Leaders through college funding streams at minimum or above minimum wage

Position supervisor to conduct weekly supervision with Peer Leaders

Participate in Training & Evaluation

Ensure Peer Leaders and supervisors attend and participate in training

Track and share student outcomes with CARA

Ensure supervisors attend CARA’s professional development programming

Create Conditions for Peer Leaders to Work with Students

Ensure Peer Leaders have resources needed to conduct regular outreach to students and to meet one-on-one with them

Assign caseload of students to Peer Leaders each semester

Provide space and needed supplies for Peer Leader workshops and events

Collaborate with Advising and Student Support Offices

Integrate Peer Leaders into existing campus structures

Provide opportunities for Peer Leaders to collaborate with campus staff

Share relevant data and its implications

College Allies Reach

60Peer Leaders being trained
9Participating Sites
8900+College students served

Sites and Partnerships

Community Based Organizations

  • Student Leadership Network
  • ExpandEd SYEP Summer Bridge Program (with Cypress Hills LDC, Good Shepherd Services, New Settlement & CUNY School for Professional Studies)

College Partnerships Outside NYC


Let us know you’re interested in learning more about College Allies.