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Conference on the Lack of Access to College

We held a one-day conference on The Lack of Access to Higher Education last year, October 4th, 2007, at Baruch College School of Public Affairs. It was an inspiring event to discuss not just the structural, racial and financial problems about access to college but also innovative solutions that some states and universities have implemented to help students get into college. We began with Martha Lampkin from the Lumina Foundation that deserves so much credit for recognizing this problem and providing funding to colleges and universities that create programs to solve this issue. And then we heard from Kati Haycock from the Education Trust, a place that conducts research and analysis about the issues around access. They were both excellent speakers and we were encouraged that perhaps there is something to be done about the fact that millions of young people do not know who to apply, are discouraged from applying, and cannot afford to attend college. We then had a panel of folks who ran college discovery programs. What a treat! Goundwork from Brooklyn and Grand Street Settlement House from Manhattan both told the story of neglected schol youth who entered college thanks to caring staff. Executive Director Margarita Rosa described the “silo” effect; that is, how elementary and secondary schools too often turn away help from community based organizations. Schools do not necessarily collaborate with community partners; rather, schools often exist in their own “silos.” Then our luncheon had Chancellor Matthew Goldstein from the City University of New York and President Free Hrabowski from the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus. Both talked about their efforts to increase young people’s chances to attend college. It was so inspiring; they brought down the house. In the afternoon, we met in workshops that talked about finance, access, and transition to trade information and deepen our understanding of how we can solve these issues. Of course, we then had a reception and talked for hours. What a day! What did we learn? We learned that there are serious efforts by many organizations to solve the issue of both access and retention. That many organizations are far ahead of government actions to solve these issues. And that we have a long way to go. We had a wonderful audience but too few elected officials who don’t give these issues much attention although they are capable of lipservice to issues of access and retention. Too few school people attended. And we need both to solve these problems.

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