Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • The Rise Prize finalists
  • Undecided high school students mull their options

The Rise Prize finalists

Organizers of the inaugural Rise Prize on Wednesday announced 26 finalists for the award that include four projects at community colleges.

The award program, which has a $1.5 million total prize pool, seeks to increase awareness about the unique needs of student parents and increase the number of effective solutions accelerating their postsecondary success. The American Association of Community Colleges is a partner in the initiative, which is funded by Imaginable Futures and Lumina Foundation.

Organizers received more than 300 applications for a wide range of solutions, including early-stage proposals seeking to pilot new ideas and mature solutions that have had a proven track record of impact.

“We saw solutions that address the needs of student parents along our ‘C’ framework, ranging from childcare and flexible and convenient pathway options, to a community of support that includes mental health and coaching solutions,” according to a press release from organizers, who plan to publish a report outlining proposed solutions in the fall.

The finalists will be paired with leading experts in their respective fields to receive advising and coaching on their solutions before pitching to a panel of judges in late June. Fourteen winners will be named in early July. Five selected “mature stage” winners will receive $200,000, eight “early stage” winners will receive $50,000 each, and one Risers’ Choice award winner will receive $100,000⁠.

The four community college programs among the finalists are:

  • Everett Community College’s Weekend College for Parents, a holistic approach to help parents complete a degree or credential leading to economic mobility and stronger families by pairing weekend-only college coursework with access to essential student services, including drop-in childcare.
  • Parenting Advancement Pathways, an initiative of Bristol Community College (Massachusetts), promotes economic mobility by providing holistic supports and skills to help low-income single parents, from diverse backgrounds, move toward economic independence.
  • Los Angeles Valley College Family Resource Center supports student parents to meet their educational, career and life goals by providing on-campus services such as mentorship, kid-friendly study lounges, family play groups, a dedicated social worker and more.
  • Monroe Community College (New York) Student-Parent Connection provides student parents the opportunity to enroll in short-term, highly effective training/academic programs supported by high-touch, tailored and connective family-friendly services designed to accelerate them from pre-enrollment to job attainment.

Undecided high school students mull their options

Among undecided high school seniors participating in a recent survey, 43 percent indicated that they may take a gap year next year, while 41 percent are looking into online college, and 37 percent are considering community college instead of a traditional institution.

Interestingly, 56 percent of respondents who said they are considering online college also said they would have still considered online college before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile, 84 percent of seniors considering community college said they still would have thought about community college, and 68 percent of those pondering a gap year indicated a gap year was still a possibility before the pandemic.

Current college students are also examining their alternatives for the fall semester. For example, while only 9 percent of current college students are considering dropping out and enrolling in a community college, 13 percent are considering the same if their current schools keep on with online classes. And while 15 percent are looking into transferring to a more affordable or local college, 17 percent will do the same if virtual learning continues.

Over half of all college students in the survey believe it will take them longer to graduate because of the coronavirus pandemic. On top of the mental impact this reality has, the financial impact could be crushing as this could mean taking on even more student loan debt to cover an extra semester or two, according to LendEDU, which commissioned the online survey of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 17 and 25.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.