Policy Advocacy


There are counseling crises in the fields of college access and success.

While young people from upper income families receive extensive individual counseling and support for postsecondary search, application, matriculation and persistence, this is not true for many young people from low income families. As a city and a nation, we need to work creatively to ensure that ALL young people have access to accurate and timely knowledge provided by highly training professionals, including individualized and culturally relevant support through each step of the postsecondary journey.


Young people from first-generation, low-income communities are a critical and indispensable part of the solution to this crisis.

Research – and the experience of anyone who spends time with adolescents and young adults – makes clear that peers are an important source of both information and influence in a wide range of arenas at this stage of life. Well-trained and supported high school and college students can and should become an important part of building the post-secondary counseling resources of our country.


Peer-Led College Access Programming: A Profile of Student Success Centers in NYC documents the creation and evolution of “Student Success Centers” in New York City. This model of collaboration between schools and CBOs, with trained high school students at its center, grew out of advocacy efforts by young people. It tracks the growth of the model, defines a set of best practices, and explains why its continued growth and existence is central to post-secondary access in the city.




CARA’s Op-Ed in the Hechinger Report argues for the importance of Peer Leadership for college access and success.




Susan Lara, a CARA bridge coachCARA’s College Bridge program was featured in The New York Times magazine in September, 2020. The story chronicles the tremendous obstacles that low-income students of color faced in accessing college when COVID hit, and it highlights CARA’s work addressing those obstacles at one NYC public high school, as well as our evolving thinking about the landscape of college opportunities.



CARA’s College Bridge coaches created this toolkit to support undocumented students in New York City and across the state.




Secondary and postsecondary institutions need to see it as part of their job to educate young people about postsecondary pathways beginning in 9th grade, and continuing through college.

This educational work needs to be experiential, authentic and culturally relevant, and needs to begin in earnest when students walk through the doors of high school. A significant body of research going back to the 1980s documents that students need to progress through a range of developmental stages as they gain increasing knowledge about postsecondary pathways; and like any other complex subject that takes extended exposure and time for students to gain mastery of, there needs to be time and space within the school day for students to learn about it.


CARA’s policy brief: Organizing for Access: Building High School Capacity to Support Student’s Postsecondary Pathways is the result of three years of research at 7 New York City public high schools who were working to restructure their college access work. It explores the challenges schools face, and surfaces successful practices in curriculum implementation, professional development for staff, and college counseling support.


Education Funders Article

CARA notes the importance of institutional change in this article in the Education Funders Research Initiative.


  • We coach other organizations to develop peer-to-peer models, and collaborate with the NYC Department of Education and City University of New York to develop citywide peer leadership for access and success.

    We have worked directly with the NYC Department of Education and City University of New York to support the development of their peer leadership initiatives, including CUNY’s ASAP program, the DoE’s College Bridge for All program, and the DoE’s Student Success Center expansion initiative.

    We also consult with community-based organizations such as Cypress Hills LDC and New Settlement Apartments to develop and implement peer-to-peer college access and success programs. Our consulting approach provides the  technical support and training resources needed to implement high fidelity training, and includes coaching staff, sharing training materials, and co-designing program models.

    For example, CARA has supported Cypress Hills LDC and New Settlement Apartments to run Peer Leader training for their own and neighboring sites. This has expanded  the number of organizations that can train high school-level Peer Leaders, allowing for greater expansion of CARA’s Right to College model.

    Our early work led the way in this field:

    Cowan, L. and Chajet, L. (March, 2012). Walking the Same Hallways: Youth Leadership in College Access in NYC: A White Paper. Brooklyn Community Foundation.

    Chajet, L. and Stoneman-Bell, S. (2009). College for All? Youth Lead the Way. Rethinking Schools.

  • CARA's work focuses on structural change within institutions.

    From 2016-2019, CARA worked to train the staff of the NYC DoE’s College Access for All Initiative, using our professional development and college office tools to influence and support schools across New York City through this ambitious citywide initiative.

    Starting in 2019, we have expanded our whole school program (College Inquiry) outside of New York City, partnering with the Connecticut RISE Network to implement 9-12 curriculum and professional development in East Hartford, Meriden, and other partner districts in Connecticut.

    We have also created school case studies of school restructuring over the course of one year and three years through which both practitioners and policymakers can better understand the challenges and promise of transforming institutions to support postsecondary access and success.