MDRC in the News

Helping More Minority Students Get to Community College

Maya White, Forbes


Far too few minority students pursue or complete their education beyond high school. Instead of dreaming about where they want to attend college, or what they want to study, many believe the cost of a degree is beyond their means.

Tragically, minorities who do enroll in college graduate at lower rates than their white peers. So many minority students are the first in their families to attend college and lack the academic or social support they need to succeed once they do enroll. African American, Latino, and Native American students have always lagged behind their white counterparts in finishing their college degrees, especially students from low-income households…..

…..That’s why I am passionate about my work as a fellow on the College Promise Campaign,  which encourages communities and states to make the first two years of community or technical college as universal and free as high school.

Across the country, more than 200 local and state leaders have launched free community college programs to make higher education more affordable and accessible. And many are adding features to ensure that students not only get to college but also complete their studies. Here are some examples of College Promise programs making great strides in boosting success for minority students.

Detroit Promise Path, Detroit, MI

The Detroit Promise Path provides a broad range of mentoring and other social services to boost the success of students enrolled in the Detroit Promise, a free community college program that’s been underway since 2013. A vast majority of students enrolled identify as minorities; during its first year, 81.1% identified as Black or African American and 10.6% as Hispanic. The program was created after city officials grew concerned that so many Detroit Promise students were dropping out of school after just one semester even though their tuition and fees were covered. To combat this attrition, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce partnered with MDRC, a social education policy research group to provide both academic and social support for Promise students. By establishing campus coaching, a monthly stipend, summer enrollment opportunities, and data to track participation, the Detroit Promise Path has had great success helping more minority students remain enrolled in school. In its first year of providing services, the Detroit Promise saw a 15% increase the the number of students enrolled full-time during their second semester. This innovative program serves as a great model for how other communities can boost the success of minority students…..

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