The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success consists of 81 member colleges: some private, some public, some are even Ivy Leagues.  They share a common goal of making college an attainable goal for low income, underrepresented students by making college more affordable while improving the application process. Their new application will be free and will allow students to apply to many Coalition schools at once. The new application will be available summer 2016. They are also attempting to create a new college planning culture by forcing students and families to rethink their timeline for college planning. Their hope is that students will embrace the process in 9th grade rather than waiting for the fall of their senior year.

 The Virtual College Locker:

 The implementation date for the new virtual college locker is reportedly April 2016.  The virtual college locker can be thought of as an academic Dropbox for students.  It began as a tool of self-reflection for students and has now evolved into a tool for the member universities to evaluate students on a deeper level, looking beyond GPA, test scores and class rank. Students will be able to post writing samples, homework, videos, artwork and anything they can think of to highlight their unique strengths. The Coalition is encouraging guidance counselors to monitor the virtual college lockers.  As you can imagine, they are less than thrilled over the prospect. Students have control over who can see their locker and are encouraged to invite any mentors they may have to give advice about the quality of what they are sharing.  No big red cups allowed here. Members of the Coalition will be looking at the VCLs to illustrate character, capability, intellectual curiosity, and their commitment.  They now claim that they will look exclusively at material that will become part of a student’s application. The VCL was designed to be a collaborative platform for teachers, guidance counselors, students, and even community members.  It is available for students beginning in 9th grade.  This will be one way the Coalition shifts the college planning timeline.

Criteria of Member Colleges and Potential Consequences:

 1.    Acceptance to the Coalition requires member colleges must all have a 70% 6 year graduation rate. This will leave out many public colleges that serve the students they claim to want to help, typically possessing lower graduation rates. 

2.    Private schools must meet 100% of financial need.  If the schools are not need blind, they won’t  have to admit students who need financial aid when funds run short.

3.    Public schools must provide affordable tuition to in-state students. So they don’t have to provide affordable tuition to out-of-state students? Affordable tuition seems like a rather subjective term to me.  When I questioned an admissions officer from Rutgers University, she told me it hasn’t been clearly defined as of yet but that it has something to do with a student’s projected income in relation to the typical amount of student loan debt students usually graduate with.

Further Analysis:

The Coalition hopes to improve the application process and probably should have stopped there. It makes no sense to devise another step that relies on technology, which underserved students will have limited, or no, access to.  It seems likely to me that all other students will benefit and that this new application will create another hurdle for students who would benefit from better guidance and help filing financial aid forms, and college applications.The VCL will create a competitive environment where students with access to technology, proactive parents, and good counselors will shine. Whether we agree with this new application process or not, we will have to follow the procedures set forth by the Coalition if we want our students to attend any of the 81 desirable member colleges.