Less than 50 percent of all Alabama residents hold a college degree. A new state initiative aims to change that.
This month the Alabama College Attainment Network launched via a virtual celebration that included Governor Kay Ivey. The goal is to bring together agencies across the state to help increase college readiness for high school students, particularly in low-income areas.
The end goal is to add 500,000 skilled workers to Alabama’s workforce by 2025.
“It’s a big goal,” said Alabama Possible Program Director Manisha Mishra. “We are developing partnerships across the state to create a culture that supports going to college and attaining that degree.”
Mishra said census data shows that 47% of white individuals in Alabama hold a college degree while only 33% of African-Americans and 24% of Latinos do. She added that more research shows that individuals who earn a college degree are five times more likely to escape poverty than their peers who do not.
The Alabama College Attainment Network is developing a sort of statewide cheering squad that stretches across 55 schools, businesses, non-profits and various agencies, including the Alabama State Department of Education, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and Alabama Community College System, all squarely focused on encouraging and helping students navigate the college process.
One of the first steps happening this week is to encourage students to apply to Alabama schools for free. This week many private and public colleges and universities have waived their application fees, saving students potentially hundreds of dollars. The application process for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) also opened this month. Mishra said the FAFSA is another often unused benefit.
“There are millions of dollars left on the table because students are not applying for FAFSA,” Mishra said.
She said the maximum Pell Grant, which students are not required to pay back, is $6,345 and the average admission to a two-year program is $4,000.
“We show them these numbers and help them understand that they can easily earn that two year degree. High school is not the end. We need to convince families how important secondary degrees are,” she said.
When a low-income community sends more students to college, Mishra said it ultimately helps the community.
“Usually those students go back to the community and serve the community, then the community prospers and the economy grows, this is all dependent on more students earning a secondary education,” she said.
To help your student apply for FAFSA, which improves students’ chances of qualifying for most grants, scholarships and work-study aid, visit alabamagoestocollege.org and studentaid.gov/fafsa.
To learn more about the Alabama College Attainment Network, or for information on becoming a partner, visit alabamapossible.org/alabamacan.