The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Closing the college gap

Milwaukee is one of eight cities with a college access program that is meant to increase the number of low-income students and first-generation students that move on to college.

The Partnership for College Access and Success is funded by the Lumina Foundation, an independent organization that provides funding for educational programs. The Milwaukee branch of PCAS is COMPASS Guide.

The seven other programs are located in Burlington, Tenn.; Sacramento, Calif.; Burlington, Vt.; Chicago; Seattle; San Antonio; and New York City.

"PCAS is meant to improve access to college and success in college for students who are typically underrepresented in secondary education," said Sandy Weinbaum, vice president and director of PCAS.

She said the programs are meant to coordinate what resources already exist to promote changes in school and higher education systems nationwide. PCAS helps to organize discussion between different college access groups to exchange ideas and prepare students to make the move towards college.

COMPASS Guide, works very closely with Casimir Pulaski High School, 2500 W. Oklahoma Ave., and the Washington Campus, a community learning center for high school students.

COMPASS Guide offers assistance to students in the Milwaukee area in finding scholarships, filling out financial aid forms and completing college applications. Marquette is not directly involved in the program.

PCAS allows schools like Pulaski High School to coordinate programs like an upcoming college fair with a representative from COMPASS who has access to all of PCAS' resources.

Seniors at Pulaski also take a class called "College Summit" where they learn how to complete a college application and financial aid forms and work on strategies for writing college essays.

"We also give students rewards for attending the events," said Yvonne Porter, a guidance counselor at Pulaski High School. "They all have a score card that gets punched every time they attend an event and if they have earned enough punches they usually get to attend a special social event at the end of the semester."

While the programs seem to be engaging an interest in the students, there are still problems they have to face.

"We need to find the reasons that students aren't going to college," said Kimberly Stezala, former director of COMPASS Guide. "Right now the only information we have is how many students graduate from high school."

Porter said it was hard to say if the programs' presence at Pulaski has actually increased students' interest in going to college.

"I know the kids like participating, but all I can say is that they know about more ways for them to find scholarships," she said.

Even though statistics about how college access programs affect student's interest in college are not available, PCAS is helping to change the way students approach looking at colleges.

"What people value about PCAS is that it is a vehicle that brings people together who are working for the same cause and helps all kinds of organizations figure what their role is in college access," Stezala said.

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