From guiding students on a path to college to helping secure scholarships, these organizations aim to make higher education possible for everyone
The college admissions process is under the microscope in the days after news broke that wealthy parents, an enrollment advisor, athletic coaches and exam administrators allegedly conspired and committed crimes to get children into elite universities.
Federal court records unsealed in Boston on Tuesday accuse 50 people — including actresses Lori Loughlin, 54, and Felicity Huffman, 56 — of taking part in a nationwide college admissions cheating scam, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. From doctoring photos to allegedly paying up to $6 million in bribes, the lengths to which parents allegedly went to get their children into prestigious institutions — including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, University of Southern California and UCLA — were revealed in 204 court pages of federal court records.
“I’m appalled, but I’m not surprised,” says Eric Sherman, a former Columbia University admissions officer who now serves as principal counselor to IvyWise, a New York-based independent educational consulting firm.
Sherman tells PEOPLE he thinks the scandal is “keeping with the national narrative” that “wealthy people control the levers of power and they also construct those levers of power.”
“I’m hopeful that the result of this will be positive, but we have to go through these ugly revelations to move toward greater equity,” adds Sherman.
For many, the news has highlighted the need for universities to address and eradicate unfair admissions practices that favor wealthy families. However, in the face of the what Boston U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has called “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” many organizations are already working to promote equity by helping disadvantaged students get into college and earn degrees.
Here are eight of those organizations trying to bridge the gap:
The Pomona, California, non-profit seeks to provide comprehensive counseling and consistent support to “high potential, low-income students” in high school, guiding them through the college admissions process and their college years. Bright Prospect pairs students with mentors who work with them directly and even presents scholarship opportunities.
The New York-based organization is led by a group of teachers and works with students, school leaders and education advocates to ensure that young people not only get into college but graduate as well, according to its website. OneGoal members work with the “same group of Fellows” during what the organization calls their “three formative years,” defined as “their junior year of high school through their first year of postsecondary education.”
The NCAN, based in Washington, D.C., supports organizations that work with underserved students. Working with states, schools, businesses and more, NCAN’s goal is to provide college access providers with tools to service disadvantaged youth through training and webinars. NCAN aims to support organizations that provide students with “pre-college advising” on the admissions process and even financial aid, according to the NCAN website.
Carrie Warick, director of policy and advocacy at the NCAN, told Good Morning America that students benefit when they have an adult helping them through the college process. “Be proactive about finding an adult,” Warick said. “There are plenty [who will help]. Students need to just ask and find the right person.”
The Seattle, Washington-based foundation works with school districts to help students with low-income backgrounds get into Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs — which can help increase a student’s chances of college acceptance. EOS has helped more than 540 schools identify disadvantaged students who qualify for AP or IB classes, according to its website.
The I Have a Dream Foundation is a charitable trust out of New York City that gives “individualized social, emotional, and academic support to young people (‘Dreamers’) from low-income communities from kindergarten all the way through college, along with guaranteed tuition support,” according to its website. Its programs have operated in 28 states, Washington, D.C., and New Zealand, servicing 18,000 students.
College Possible’s headquarters is in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but the organization has branches across the country. The non-profit works to “remove barriers to a college degree” by helping students prepare for and apply to college, according to its website.
“We always have said we’re the kind of country where if you work hard and play by the rules you can get ahead, and the pathway to a better life is a higher education,” College Possible CEO Jim McCorkell told the Star Tribune. “But when we see it stacked so against the people who most need a fair shot, it is heartbreaking.”
The UNCF bills itself as the “largest and most effective minority education organization,” and has become a legendary staple in the black community since its founding in 1944. With a focus on serving black students, the UNCF offers scholarship, internship and fellowship programs and serves over 60,000 students at 1,100 schools, according to the UNCF website. The Washington, D.C.-based organization awards about $100 million to more than 10,000 students through its many scholarship programs each year.
Based in Portland, Oregon, the Gateway to College National Network works to help former high school dropouts complete their diplomas and pursue a postsecondary credential, according to its website. The organization also provides consulting services to help education leaders support students within community colleges.