College Allies

CARA’s College Allies program addresses college retention for first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color by training college students to support their peers through the obstacles to graduation.

Why College Allies

22% of students who enter CUNY community college graduate within 3 years and 55% who enter a four-year college graduate within 6 years.

Once students get to college they face a myriad of obstacles: registering for courses, securing needed-services, navigating financial aid, and sifting through an overwhelming number of majors. Unfortunately, caseloads for college-based advisors are often too large to provide students with the support they need.

Peer Leaders are a powerful and cost-effective way of reducing the advisement gap in college. Peer Leaders:

  • Outreach to students via phone, text, social media, and in person
  • Host one- on-one and small groups meetings
  • Plan and facilitate targeted skill-building workshops and community building events
  • Connect students to online navigational tools and resources

Peer Leaders acquire a range of skills and content knowledge that they use to help students in their own communities to improve their educational outcomes, while at the same time improving their own.

Our Program Model

  • CARA provides Peer Leaders with 70+ hours of training where they develop the skills and knowledge to support students through critical retention tasks, help them to develop campus navigation skills, and ensure that they integrate into their campus community.

    College Experience for First-Generation Students
    -Landscape of College Access & Success
    -Challenges to Persistence
    -Supporting Peers through Critical Retention Tasks
    -Creating Campus Communities

    Knowledge & Skills
    -Campus Resources
    -Class Registration
    -Degree Progress
    -Transfer Process
    -Financial Aid

    Navigating College Life
    -Exploring Majors
    -Identifying “Good Match” Careers
    -Overcoming Challenges
    -Communicating with Professors

    Working With Students
    -Counseling Skills
    -Outreach Strategies
    -Workshop Development & Facilitation
    -Data Tracking

  • 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 using a youth development framework
    • Provide additional training to Peer Leaders to address specific program needs
  • CARA helps program leadership to integrate a peer-to-peer component into their retention program.

    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, and scheduling

Core Components for Program Partners

Hire and Support Peer Leaders

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

Pay Peer Leaders through work study or other funding, at a rate consistent with work study

Schedule regular staff meetings and one-on-one supervision with Peer Leaders

Review and use data for supervision

Ensure Time & Space for Peer Leaders

Establish a central location for Peer Leaders to meet with students

Schedule office hours for Peer Leaders to meet one-on-one with students

Secure space and time for Peer Leader workshops and events

Collaborate with Campus-Based Programs

Communicate with relevant campus and community-based staff about Peer Leader programming

Integrate Peer Leaders into existing retention efforts

Share relevant data and its implications

Participate in Training & Evaluation

Ensure Peer Leaders and supervisors attend summer and academic year trainings

Ensure supervisors attend CARA site-based and cross-site meetings

Track and report aggregate data to CARA and participate in assessments, as needed

History of College Allies

In 2014 CARA collaborated with Graduate NYC and LINCT (now CUNY K-16 Initiatives) to develop Strive for Success (S4S), a peer led retention program that worked in collaboration with a variety of CBOs and was based on select CUNY 2-year campuses. CARA trained over 150 Strive for Success Peer Leaders to support students to complete tasks critical to retention.

In 2016 CARA partnered with ASAP – a program designed to improve graduation rates at the CUNY 2-Year programs – to develop and grow a peer-to-peer component of its retention model. ASAP assists students in earning associate degrees within three years by providing a range of financial, academic, and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement and career counselors.

CARA has trained over 70 ASAP Peer Leaders, provided professional development to ASAP Peer Leader supervisors, and supported ASAP leadership in the design and implementation of their peer leadership model at nine CUNY Campuses.

CARA’s partnerships with Strive for Success and ASAP paved the way for us to partner with a growing number of CUNY and CBO-based retention programs to develop a peer-to-peer component to their models, beginning in academic year 2018-2019.

Peer Leader talks about impact of peer-to-peer support on students

Timothy Blackwell, Peer Leader - Borough of Manhattan Community College, 2015-2017

Peer Leader talks about impact of peer-to-peer support on Peer Leaders

Alberto Coates, Peer Leader - Borough of Manhattan Community College, 2016-2017

College Allies Reach & Impact

71 Peer Leaders Trained in 2017-18
9 College Campuses
1.5K+ College students served in 2017-18 school year

A recent analysis of Strive for Success showed that students who were highly engaged in the program (e.g. met with their mentors seven or more times throughout the year) were retained at a 15.6% higher rate than a matched comparison group.

Sites and Partnerships

Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Bronx Community College
  • College of Staten Island
  • Hostos Community College
  • Kingsborough Community College
  • Queensborough Community College
  • Laguardia Community College
  • Medgar Evers
  • New York City College of Technology