Online classes + coaching help first-gen students
Combining online courses with intensive coaching is helping low-income Boston students complete college degrees, writes Jon Marcus on Education Next.
Boston’s high-performing Match Charter High School started Match Beyond in 2013 to boost its students’ college graduation rate. Though all go to college, nearly half don’t complete a degree. Now it’s opened the program to others who’ve tried college but fallen short.
Match Beyond partners with Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, which was designed to provide online, competency-based education to working adults. Usually, employers pay the tuition. Students set their own pace, writes Marcus.
College for America asks students to demonstrate mastery of 120 “competencies” toward 20 goals on any of nine career paths. For a bachelor’s degree in management, for instance, competencies include “evaluat[ing] risks and benefits of international transactions” and “explain[ing] the impact of social, cultural, legal, and political factors on international business operations.” After successfully completing a number of projects, students submit their work to faculty for review, receiving not a letter grade but either a “yes” or a “not yet.” If it’s the former, students move on to the next competency; if the latter, they go back and keep trying.
College for America charges $3,000 in annual tuition, an incentive for students to move quickly through the program. Match Beyond pay an extra $2,500 for coaching and study space (with snacks) in a Boston high-rise. Pell Grants cover the cost.
Coaches receive daily updates from CFA on how students are progressing and meet weekly to help students stay on track. They also provide career counseling.
Other charter schools and community groups also are combining coaching, support and online education to help struggling students, writes Marcus. Few make it on their own. “The chance of a low-income, first-generation student earning a bachelor’s degree within six years of high school graduation is less than 1 in 10—and dropping.”