Results are Rolling In!
It’s clear. Our new program, PeerFoward, is making a real difference in the lives of students at low-income high schools.
College Summit launched PeerForward this year based on an idea that, though validated by research, is still radical in American education: students can be organized, trained, and inspired to increase targeted postsecondary milestone rates of their classmates and friends.
We call this idea “youth activation,” and it is measured not just by the willingness and ingenuity of the students who lead their peers but in the actual outcomes of their classmates.
I am delighted initial assessments of the financial aid campaigns organized by our Peer Leaders in our partner schools are demonstrating youth activation can be a powerful force. The key measure of campaign success is the rate at which seniors in PeerForward schools completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) Consider the following:
- By the all-important March 3 deadline, PeerForward teams working in high schools with the lowest-income populations (80% or more of students qualify for free and reduced meals) increased their schools’ FAFSA completion rate 42% more than the average nationwide increase for districts with comparable poverty levels, based on internal analysis of our results compared to national data compiled by University of Virginia researchers.
- In a rigorous study performed by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, on average South Carolina PeerForward schools completed about twice the number of FAFSAs by March 3 relative to comparable South Carolina schools that did not have PeerForward teams.
The individual stories that lie behind these statistics are particularly inspirational. Each Peer Leader team took an approach that was appropriate for and meaningful to their community. Peer Leaders at Lincoln County High School in West Virginia, for example, skillfully used video to remind and persuade classmates to apply. Peer Leaders at Riverside Academy West in Michigan trained more students in our methods so that every senior could get 1:1 coaching.
These are just a couple of examples of the creative and caring work PeerForward teams did to get their classmates to college. And just the beginning of the “youth activation” movement College Summit is leading nationwide.