$1.3M NSF grant to advance college & workforce readiness

November 6, 2017
Barbara Schneider

Barbara Schneider

Michigan State University has received a nearly $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help more low-income and minority high school students enroll in college.

Led by MSU’s John A. Hannah University Distinguished Professor Barbara Schneider, the grant will allow the College Ambition Program (CAP) to expand on and improve how students are prepared for college and the workforce.

Created in 2011 and based on 15 years of research from Schneider, CAP is a Michigan high school-based model that combines multiple strategies, including course counseling, mentoring and financial aid advising, to help students achieve their postsecondary aspirations.

As part of the grant, CAP will introduce their already successful in-person initiatives in a new online platform, where students earn badges that are markers of performance, perseverance and achievement to set them up for success. This will further digitize and personalize the college preparatory experience, allowing students to take ownership over their learning.

In addition, the two-year grant will allow CAP to promote and provide more business and community internships. These on-site experiences—in locations such as robotics companies, vertical farming startups and state-of-the-art medical rehabilitation clinics—will increase student interest, knowledge and skills for the potential labor market opportunities in Michigan’s growing technological future.

“Through these experiences, students will develop competencies that can help them acquire out-of-school knowledge and skills that their more advantaged peers are likely to receive through their families and community social networks,” explained Schneider. To accomplish these aims, the CAP team utilizes trained science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) staff in dedicated centers in schools, as well as MSU graduate assistants and researchers.

The program focuses primarily on juniors and seniors in 11 Detroit- and Lansing-area high schools.

Many minority and underserved adolescents remain ill-equipped for the rapidly changing world they will enter. Students often have the drive and ambition to achieve their goals, but lack the opportunity and information to make them a reality. CAP was created to change the culture of schools serving these students to help better prepare them for the future.

Since CAP began, it has increased college enrollment by 8 percent each year among treatment schools compared to control schools.

This new phase of CAP intends to improve on this effect even further.

“If we want to help these students, we need to create a program that they feel is authentic and created for them specifically. Using student feedback, CAP mentors, business and university partners, we can give our students new and attainable paths to college and future labor markets,” said Schneider.

The College Ambition Program (CAP) has been functioning in Detroit- and Lansing-area high schools since 2011. Learn about how CAP began in “Visualize, Strategize, Go!”—a New Educator feature story from 2012.