Northwest Education Loan Association Programs
NELA supports a variety of statewide college access and success efforts that reach more than 25,000 students and families each year and provides more than $300,000 in scholarships to over 300 students in Washington and Oregon. Eighty-four percent (84%) of the students served through our Center each year are non-white, and while a wide age range is reached, most are youth and young adults. We provide free college information and support resources to residents of Washington and Oregon that aim to prepare them for success in higher education. We believe it is important to ensure students take specific steps that help them move from aspiration to achievement. We have created a pipeline of services that support students from elementary school through college. We share our free resources and training programs to increase college knowledge among all members of a community. We believe creating college-going culture within communities will ensure students stay on track with their college and career goals.
I'm Going to College is an early awareness program that helps underserved elementary and middle school students make college a possibility. The program provides students that may not have a family experience with higher education an opportunity to build their interest in and understanding of the many aspects of going to college - all with hands-on experience. For many students this is the only opportunity to discuss what options are available after high school. In 2009, 3,000 Washington students participated. Surveys show this program results in significant increases in the percentage of students who talked to a teacher or caring adult about going to college after completing the program. This program has served more than 6,000 students in Washington since 2003. The program begins with young students studying several different types of colleges and learning how to apply for admission and financial aid. Weeks later they receive letters from the college notifying them that they have been accepted for admission and are eligible for financial aid. On visitation day, the children travel to the college by bus. All attempts are made to realistically create the experience of a first day at college.
KnowHow2GO targets at-risk middle school students with information on concrete steps they need to take to be ready for college. Big dreams and good grades aren't enough to get into college. KnowHow2GO is a national public service campaign designed to inform young people about the actual steps they need to take to make their college dreams a reality. The campaign includes television, radio, print, outdoor and interactive advertising. It is sponsored by Lumina Foundation for Education, American Council on Education and the Ad Council.
1. Be a pain - Find an adult who can help you with the steps to college;
2. Push yourself - find out which classes are required for college and take them;
3. Find the right fit - Explore colleges with programs that suit your interests;
4. Put your hands on some cash - There is money out there to help pay for college; you just need to apply for it.
KnowHow2GOWashington has developed a statewide Web site (www.KnowHow2GOWashington.org) where students will find an interactive map directing them to organizations that can support them through four steps to college. Our local program targets at-risk middle school students with information on the "four steps". In 2009, this program reached 20,000 students. In addition to launching the KnowHow2GO campaign, our vision is to help more students connect to college access and success resources. KnowHow2GO Washington presents a timely opportunity to realize this common vision and create a shared agenda around college readiness and access.
The NELA® Center for Student Success is a community facility open to the public, that offers free resources, information and counseling to students and their families so they can successfully plan and pay for higher education. Center advisers coach thousands of students through specific activities, including: completing and submitting financial aid forms, drafting effective college essays, submitting accurate college applications, successful debt management and loan repayment and ensuring comprehensive scholarship searches. Impartial professionals counsel on the risks and benefits of the loan options available to students, and assist students and parents decipher the small print in promissory notes and other paperwork for student loans. In 2009, the Center and its services reached 11,500 individuals. Center for Student Success services can be accessed in multiple ways. The Center is located in Central Seattle, but operates a website for those outside of the Seattle/Tacoma area. The Center also offers toll-free phone access to its professionals and advisors. In Washington, only 33% of high school graduates are likely to reach college by age 19. We encourage partners and parents to access our resources so that they can effectively coach their students or adult-learner populations through the college.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
College Access Accomplishment Selected as 1 of 4 College Access Challenge Grant awardees, receiving $207,000 in 2009 and $236,000 is pending for 2010. Secured more than $600,000 in Lumina funding to expand college access services in Washington over the past 3 years. Awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships to high-need students attending Washington schools since 2003. In the past year, NELA supported 140 new need-based scholarships, particularly to students completing a certificate program at a community college/vocational institution and those transferring to four-year institutions. Loan Repayment Achievements; Provided over 15,000 borrower counseling sessions in Washington last year alone. This service helps schools work with students to curb student loan defaults and to promote successful loan repayment, Provided 36 Washington schools with a web-based tool that helps the schools stay in contact with their student loan borrowers during school and after graduation so they can identify their students who may be having trouble with their loan payments and help get these students back on track with their repayment, Prevented over 98 percent of the loans for which NELA administers the guarantee from going into default, Returned 89,100 delinquent accounts to good standing, adverting more than $1 billion in potential loan defaults. This compares to 74,000 delinquent accounts totaling $902 million returned to good standing in 2008 - an improved rate of default prevention occurring at the same time borrowers entering delinquency grew by 4 percent, Achieved the 6th best default recovery rate of all guarantors nationwide, recovering $65 million, Completed loan rehabilitation for nearly 30 percent of NELA borrowers in default, resulting in a return to good standing for these borrowers and a renewed ability to access federal student loan aid.
The gaps in college access and success continue to increase, between white and non-white populations. We are in an economic environment where all of us are being expected to do more with less. Our nation also has a renewed focus on higher education - as a need not a benefit. Because a shift in dialogue is prioritizing college access and success as a necessity, more communities are looking for ways to ensure more students are connected to relevant resources. Because of this now is the time to develop effective program and process evaluation tools and data metrics, for college access and success programs. We need to consider state-wide initiatives and site-specific theories of change that can inform the evaluation plan and best next steps. We will need to engage someone who can help us identify the critical assessment areas e.g.: organizational capacity to effectively implement, organizational "fit" within the community system, and student level access and success outcomes. Specific assessment areas will need to be determined by an evaluation consultant. Long-term efforts will require a comprehensive student tracking system. Central to measuring outcomes will be gathering student-specific information and data. We will need to track students as they move through various programs and activities and determine how their interaction with various services impacts success. We also need to understand how an individual socio-economic status impacts results. We will need to track what happens to students after leaving individual programs. This will require connecting to national databases that provide college enrollment and retention patterns. NELA does not have the internal capacity to implement this evaluation effort, but are taking steps to fund and develop a comprehensive evaluation plan.