The latest news and updates from CARA.
The Bell’s ‘Miseducation’ Podcast: The College Advising Gap
CARA’s peer leadership model was highlighted in a recent episode of the Bell’s Miseducation podcast, The College Advising Gap. As the reporters, Elsabet Franklin and Tenzin Jobe (who are themselves high school seniors) note, “consistently, NYC public high school students have told us that they don’t feel properly supported by their schools in the college process”. Elsabet and Tenzin highlight that, while CARA’s peer leadership model is an important step in the right direction, it is just a piece of the puzzle in truly providing sufficient postsecondary advising to all students in all schools.
Recent News from CARA
In early March, CARA was invited to present at NPSI’s annual conference, which convenes postsecondary leadership teams from districts around the country. CARA’s “spark session” – featuring Deneysis Labrada (director of College Bridge), Rob Schwarz (AP at partner Richmond Hill High School) and co-director Janice Bloom – focused on transforming whole school infrastructure, and featured takeaways from our policy brief Organizing for Access: Building High School Capacity to Support Students’ Postsecondary Pathways. Other conference presenters included Janice Jackson, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, and Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education.
CARA was excited to bring both its whole school and peer leadership work to a national audience, and is grateful to NPSI’s founder, Greg Darnieder, for his ongoing support and mentorship.
Since it was first created in 2019, we have been pleased to see CARA’s Toolkit for Undocumented Students shared widely, by high school college offices, the DoE’s Office of Multilingual Learners, and NYSACAC. Our toolkit has now seen an update! It includes more recent information about the NY State Dream Act, links to local organizations – plus some aesthetically pleasing changes.
As noted in this recent piece in the Nation, undocumented students and their families have been hit hard by the pandemic and need resources now more than ever. We hope that the Toolkit continues to support undocumented students and their families through their postsecondary explorations in its new and improved form.
As Eric Adams begins his mayoralty, CARA is calling on him (in this op-ed in City Limits) to provide stable funding for peer leadership as a strategy for college access in NYC. Adams has vowed to listen to students during his administration (see the interview below with one of the Youth co-chairs of his transition team); in our experience, young people have so much more to offer than advice.
Given training, trust, and pay, they have shown themselves to be invaluable resources and leaders in NYC’s schools. Read the op-ed calling for sustained and expanded funding for peer leader programs here and/or watch the new video on our website of peer leaders in our College Allies persistence program talking about their work here.
A. Philip Randolph High School’s Student Success Center (SSC) opened its doors in 2018; and then it was forced to close them in the fall of 2020 due to budget cuts. According to Principal David Fanning, the closing was “Traumatizing to say the least.” Principal Fanning goes on to call it a “victim of its own success”, considering the influx of excited students seeking post-secondary guidance that came along with it. However, it was the yearning from those same students, as well as faculty and administrative support, that made the reopening of the A. Philip Randolph SSC a crucial addition to their homecoming in September 2021. Principal Fanning noted, “I am extremely grateful that we were able to count on our strategic partners at CARA, who helped us onboard our 8 Youth Leaders, train a new SSC Director and ensure that the Class of 2022 had a Student Success Center operational on the day school opened.”
The rebirth of the SSC has already greatly impacted students and faculty. Youth Leaders have made waves pushing into senior English classes for workshops and presentations surrounding post-secondary awareness; they’ve brought back events such as Alumni day to their school; and they’ve planned in-person college trips. Supervising the Youth Leaders this year is an alumni of the school, Carolina Caro.We sat down with Carolina to discuss the reopening of the SSC.
After starting her own college access program at a high school in Hawaii, Alana Haitsuka (age 54) sought to learn more about peer-to-peer work directly from CARA. She has journeyed to New York City for the fall to spend her semester sabbatical interning at CARA. While she initially planned to just pick up some new ideas, she is now hoping to continue working with CARA after returning to Hawaii. Alana talked to us about how this transition came to be, and what more she is hoping to gain through this partnership.
How did you decide to spend your sabbatical as an intern at CARA?
I wanted to learn more about the peer-to-peer model of high school students helping other high school students with college access and success. I started a program in Hawaii 3 years ago; my program is called Team College Counselor and I just did it on my own, made it up as I went and I’m proud of it. However, I knew that there were so many things I didn’t know what I was doing and that there were ways I could make it better. So that is what led me to pursue an internship here.
You can learn a lot from visiting and observing a place, but I think the way that you really become a part of a place or you really learn the most is by participating in the work. So if I had just come here [to CARA] to observe and learn, I would have taken some things back with me, but the only way to be a part of the culture is to contribute as well as take and so that’s why I wanted to intern.
What are you hoping to accomplish through this experience/opportunity?
I think now halfway through it, I am hoping to accomplish something different than what I came into it hoping to accomplish. Originally I just wanted to get some ideas, take them back, and implement them at my school. Now, I see that I would like to continue working with CARA. What I hope to accomplish is to continue some sort of relationship between either our school or other schools in Hawaii that may utilize the College Inquiry or Right to College model.
What have you learned so far? And what are you still hoping to learn?
I think I’ve learned how important it is to institutionalize the programs versus just doing it as an individual. So, what I hope is to take the Team College Counselor at home away from me and make it part of the culture of the school so that it’s not tied to just an individual.
A highlight has been getting to know all of the people who work at CARA. I feel very comfortable amongst people with the same passion as me. Even though we’re working with students that may be from different ethnicities, different cultures, different languages, they still have the same struggles. It’s just been rewarding to see the passion and the hard work that CARA staff put into trying to help students meet the same college access and success goals that I’m working on in Hawaii.
There are a lot of things I’ll take away with me but there was a statement recently that Lori Chajet [Co-Director of CARA] made that I will always hold on to. We were at a school and going over specific things that needed to be done as part of the program and there was a question like, “Well, what if we aren’t able to do this or we aren’t able to do that?” and Lori said “Anything that we don’t do will just be another obstacle in the way of the students being able to be successful.” I’ve never heard it said that way, but it just is very clear, it’s very true, and really of great importance. All of those pieces are not just a checklist; they are things that have to be done so that students can be successful.
As the class of 2022 works to fill out college applications this fall, there are several noteworthy shifts in the college admissions landscape. While CARA is seeing many worrying signs about students’ preparation for the application process – and increased hesitancy about attending college at all – there are also some pieces of good news this fall.
First, as a result of the pandemic, a growing number of colleges have embraced test-optional policies in their admissions process. Fairtest reports that more than 3/4s of colleges and universities will not require ACT/SAT scores for Fall 2022 applicants, and most are committed to extending this through Fall 2023. This includes the CUNY system, along with 85 other campuses, which have removed the need for the tests entirely by instituting test-blind admissions. Given widespread acknowledgement that access to ACT/SAT test prep is unequal, and growing evidence that scores are not valid predictors of student success and but rather align most reliably to family income (see Paul Tough’s The Inequality Machine: How College Divides Us), this is an important move towards equity in admissions. To see a list of test-optional and test-blind colleges, click here.
Second, highly competitive Amherst College announced that it is doing away with legacy admissions. While legacy admissions policies blatantly favor more well-off families, most competitive colleges have nevertheless held onto these policies. We hope to see other competitive colleges follow their lead.
And third, a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education noted that Nicole Hurd, the new president of Lafayette University – formerly the head of the College Advising Corps – is ending use of the CSS profile for low-income students. The CSS Profile, owned by the College Board, is used by over 300 private colleges to gather additional financial information about applications. As she notes,
“We make low-income students prove over and over and over again that they’re poor, and that’s not OK…It takes a long time to fill out the Profile, and it’s harder if you’re not a native English speaker, if your tax status is complicated, or if you’re not in communication with both of your parents. This form is a problem.”
Lafayette College will waive the form for individual students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch, as well as all students who attend schools where 75 percent or more of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. We see this as another important step towards equity in college admissions.
CARA Featured in the News and Policy Reports
- A New Near-Peer Coaching Program Strives to Keep Incoming Freshmen on Course, in The Education Trust’s Higher Ed – Equity Lens.
- CARA releases new report on Student Success Centers, Peer Led College Access Programming: A Profile of Student Success Centers in NYC.
- CARA’s policy brief: Organizing for Access: Building High School Capacity to Support Student’s Postsecondary Pathways
- New York Times magazine, Her School Offered a Path to the Middle Class: Will Covid-19 Block It?
- NPR Marketplace, Many high school seniors in the “class of COVID” are rethinking their college plans
- The Hechinger Report, Getting College Guidance Numbers Right: What if Young People Were a Solution, Not Just a Problem?
- CUNY TV, This edition: CARA-College Access: Research & Action
- Fox 5, Featured Story: Supporting every student
- NY1/Noticias, Guían a jóvenes en su proceso de ingreso universitario
- WPIX, College counseling program helps bridge the gap
- The Hechinger Report, College dreams often melt away in summer months. ‘Near-peer’ counseling is helping keep them alive.
- The Gothamist, ‘Summer Melt’ Is A College Admissions Killer. These Students Are Here To Help.
- Center for an Urban Future, Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in NYC
- NPR, In the Weeks Before Freshmen Year, Money Worries Aplenty
- NPR, What You Should Know about the New Summer SAT
- Chalkbeat, Students Helping Students
- ABC 7, New York Viewpoint
- NY Times – Schoolbook, These Students Have Been Accepted to College, But Will They Show Up This Fall?
- Aljazeera America, Will Cristal’s College Dream Survive the Summer?
- City Limits, Getting Kids Ready for College, Beyond the Classroom
- Center for New York City Affairs, Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC’s Precarious New Generation of College Students
- What Kids Can Do, Across Summer’s Shaky Bridge to College, Help from Other Students
- Chalkbeat, Gotham Schools: Usable Knowledge
Annenberg Institute for School Reform, VUE, “We’re All in it Together”: the Role of Youth Leadership in College Access”
- What Kids Can Do, “Submit Application!” Youth Coach Their Peers Past the College-Access Potholes