E3 Alliance, together with College Forward and the Austin College Attainment Network, is leading a collaborative effort that helps Central Texas students transition from high school to college amid the added challenges of COVID-19. With a focus on students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students, College Forward provides mentorship to help students combat summer melt, in which college-bound students fail to enroll in the fall; prepare for enrollment in the coming semester; and lay the foundation for success in college.
For many students, continuing with their original college plans felt unrealistic while coping with the pandemic’s economic, health, and social repercussions. But delaying college enrollment increases a student’s chances of never earning a degree. The collaboration addressed a critical need by equipping students with knowledge, resources, and personal guidance to keep their college plans on track.
College Forward has made my senior year a lot easier. My coach was always there to help me with my FAFSA, applying to colleges, and meeting important deadline. I never felt alone because I knew help was just a text or an email away.College Forward student
How it Helps
Despite efforts over the last decade by state and local groups, college enrollment in Central Texas has consistently dropped, particularly among students from low-income communities. Yet most of today’s jobs require additional education after high school to earn a living wage.
Amid job loss caused by COVID-19, individuals without a college degree have struggled to find work but hiring has rebounded for those with a bachelor’s degree. As students enter a workforce profoundly reshaped by the pandemic, a college degree will help them achieve lower rates of unemployment, increased resilience in the job market, and greater economic prosperity.
In the program’s first year, E3 Alliance partnered with area school districts to identify students who would benefit most from virtual mentorship through the college transition. Through College Forward, near-peer coaches offered individualized virtual advising and resources through the summer, an often-challenging period for retention. Additionally, E3 Alliance worked with local business leaders to recruit an army of volunteer mentors.
The virtual mentorship initiative put a structure in place that addressed an immediate need in Central Texas during COVID-19, but also established relationships, processes, and a mentorship community to make this work possible longer-term.
The college transition effort represents a collaboration among E3 Alliance, Austin College Attainment Network, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Austin Area Research Organization, and Strive for College, with program management and coaching by advisors from College Forward and AmeriCorps Central Texas.