The Economic Mobility Project notes that in schools serving predominately low-income students there are more than one thousand students per counselor. Those counselors are responsible for walking each student through high school to graduation and onto college or career, and the lack of access to student counseling is a contributing factor in the gap between students’ goals after high school and their attainment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 59% of students from the lowest quarter of household income expect to graduate from college, but eight years later, only 14% have done so.
First Lady Michelle Obama, herself a first-generation college graduate, has launched the Better Make Room initiative to help families navigate the path from high school to college. One important part of the Better Make Room initiative is Up Next, a national mobile messaging tool that provides assistance with college searches, applying to college, federal student aid, and student loan repayment. This advising is designed to supplement school counselors and to provide extra support for students who may not have any access to counseling in their schools or communities.
To sign up, students or parents simply text COLLEGE to 44044. Better Make Room takes it from there.
The initiative also provides families with tools and resources to help make informed decisions about college and adulthood, including:
- Napkin Finance: A financial education and resource site to help students with all of life’s major decisions.
- Financial Aid Shopping Sheet: A document that students can fill out to break down the costs of going to college.
- Net Price Calculator Center: A tool that links to each college or university’s online calculator. This calculator lets students enter information about themselves to find out what students like them paid to attend the college after taking grants and scholarship aid (aid that students receive that they do not have to pay back) into consideration.
- Federal Student Aid (FSA): An information site to help students learn what types of aid are available, how to become eligible for aid, and how to apply and manage loans once they’ve been accepted.
- College Navigator: A tool to help students locate colleges and universities that meet their needs and career goals, including distance from home, type of college, degrees offered, and more.
- College Scorecard: A tool covered previously on One Voice Illinois that provides information on college costs, graduation, student debt, and post-college earnings.
Any family trying to help their child go to college will find these tools and resources from Better Make Room useful in navigating what can often be a confusing process.