Alamo Colleges District Launches Pilot Near-Peer Coaching Program to Help More Underserved Texans Access and Complete College

SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The Alamo Colleges District, the largest community college district in the south Texas region that serves 70,000+ students and provides tuition-free college to thousands of high school seniors, today announced a major new pilot initiative designed to improve first-year student retention, particularly among first-generation students and students from under-resourced backgrounds, through near-peer coaching. Through a collaboration with national nonprofit College Possible, the community college district will bring evidence-based near-peer coaching to 700 AlamoPROMISE students on two of its campuses, the majority of whom are from under-resourced backgrounds or are first-generation students.

"Breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty requires meeting the most basic needs of each learner—from mental and emotional health to food and housing insecurity," said Gilberto Becerra, associate vice chancellor for advocacy, retention, and completion at Alamo Colleges District. "By creating an integrated system of wraparound support services, our goal is to meet students where they are. This is about providing students with the holistic support and resources needed to ensure that the most underserved students can chart pathways to and through higher education."

Beginning August 2023, the Alamo Colleges District will offer College Possible's Catalyze success coaching program to help improve persistence and retention, particularly among first-year Pell recipients and first-generation college students. The program was made possible thanks in part to generous financial support from the Holt Family Foundation.

The program is designed to increase first-to-second-year persistence by pairing first-year community college students with a dedicated near-peer success coach who provides advice and mentorship as students navigate the complex world of college completion. Coaches help students strengthen study and time management skills, manage their academic workload, renew financial aid, and access myriad campus resources from academic advising and tutoring to health and wellness.

Alamo Colleges' students reflect the diverse and changing demographics of higher education today: more than 80% of its students are enrolled part-time, juggling work and family responsibilities and complex commitments beyond the classroom. A majority of its students (67%), are Hispanic or of Latin American descent, 70% of students receive financial aid and 29% are economically disadvantaged.

A 2019 finalist for the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the Alamo Colleges District is a nationally recognized leader in the delivery of integrated student support services. Its campuses feature Advocacy Centers with food pantries, clothes closets, mental health and wellness counseling to help boost the financial stability and economic security of its students—and eliminate barriers to college completion. Through the district's AlamoAVISE model, students meet with dedicated and certified academic advisors who work with them to help them plan and achieve their educational goals—from the first point of connection to completion.

The collaboration with College Possible draws on the nonprofit's 20-year history of training AmeriCorps service members as college access and success mentors to help high school juniors and seniors from underserved communities enroll in -- and complete -- college. Over the past seven years, the organization has built and scaled the Catalyze program, which has made it possible for a growing number of institutions nationwide to offer similar, near-peer coaching programs.

Launched in 2016 at a single campus, the evidence-based model now serves more than 5,000 students annually enrolled across a network of 12 partner colleges and universities. The results are impressive, with colleges and universities that deploy the model reporting improvements in first-year retention as high as 16%.

The collaboration with Alamo Colleges represents a significant step forward for Catalyze's expansion. In 2022, College Possible redesigned the Catalyze coaching curriculum with an increased focus on meeting the varied and complex needs of community college students. Generous support from the Travelers Foundation has enabled College Possible's expansion into the community college sector over the past two years.

"Community college students are more likely to balance work, family, and community responsibilities in addition to studying full- or part-time. They are often resilient individuals, highly motivated to achieve success and overcome obstacles that they may experience during their educational journey," said Catherine Marciano, vice president of partnerships at College Possible is excited about the new relationship in Texas. "Our new coaching curriculum acknowledges—and embraces— these realities to meet the needs of community college learners in a more holistic sense. We're proving that near-peer coaching can disrupt barriers to academic success and financial stability—and strengthen pathways to social and economic mobility."

For more information about College Possible Catalyze, visit CollegePossible.org/Catalyze. 

About College Possible: As one of the largest and most successful college access and success organizations in the country, since 2000 College Possible has empowered more than 85,700 students from under-represented communities on their path to earning a college degree. Its pioneering model matches eligible students with a near-peer coach and an evidence-based curriculum designed to help students overcome the most common barriers to getting into college and completing their degree – all at no cost to students or their families. Nationwide, College Possible students are three times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree within six years than their peers from similar backgrounds. Headquartered in Saint Paul, MN, College Possible operates: regional sites in Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Saint Paul, MN; and Seattle, WA; as well as Catalyze partnerships in California, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas. Learn more about our Catalyze program at CollegePossible.org/Catalyze.

SOURCE College Possible

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