Reaching Higher with 100 High Schools

Late last week, MCAN named 100 high schools that each will receive $5,000 grants to help leverage and systematize college programming in their buildings. Given its strong commitment to, and support of, the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, it’s no surprise that MCAN is calling the participants Reach Higher high schools.

Bay City Central High School students celebrate Decision Day 2014 with a visit from Sparty, the Michigan State University mascot. Their high school was one of 100 selected to receive a Reach Higher grant.

Through its statewide initiatives strategy, MCAN shows continuous commitment to providing support, assistance, and promotional material that helps schools develop campaigns around important milestones in the college-going process. College Application Week was launched in 2011, followed by College Decision Day in 2014, and the College Cash Campaign in 2015. Despite the suite of initiatives offered, these campaigns often occur in isolation - as one-off programs with sporadic implementation. MCAN will continue to provide resources and support to all schools that participate in the statewide initiatives – we love working with them! However, the Reach Higher grants will scale and formalize the initiatives, and help Michigan move the needle to reach Goal 2025.

Reach Higher high schools will be responsible for implementing the entire suite of MCAN’s statewide initiatives and developing a cohesive strategy to foster college-going culture and improve college-going outcomes at the building level. That strategy will include the following:

  • Establish Postsecondary Advisory Council: Schools will establish a dedicated team of professionals to lead the college access strategy. The team will include the principal, counselor(s), college adviser(s), teachers, as well as (if appropriate) higher education representatives (admissions, financial aid, outreach), and community-based organizations. The team will adopt a college-going vision for their high school and determine baseline levels on specific indicators.
  • Triad of College Access Events: Each PAC will plan and host a linked triad of college access events for seniors including College Application Week in the fall, College Cash Campaign in the winter (which will include systemic financial aid screening for name-by-name FAFSA completion), and College Decision Day in the spring.
  • Postsecondary Success Asset Mapping: Each PAC will participate in Postsecondary Success Asset Mapping to evaluate the school’s college-going culture. PSAM is a research-based survey and set of tools that help schools better guide students toward successful college and career pathways.
  • Reach Higher High School Self-Assessment: Each PAC will assess the current effectiveness of its college and career readiness counseling, support, and programming in two ways:

(1) Staffing and Capacity – What is the school is doing to ensure appropriate school counselor capacity, focus, and professional development opportunities; and

(2) College-Going Culture and Programs – What is the school's building-level strategy for improving college enrollment outcomes?

MCAN believes the Reach Higher strategy will ignite systems-level change in school buildings, which is key to moving the needle. We’re so excited to have 100 high schools on board as we launch this new program, and can’t wait to see the amazing progress that happens in schools across the state!  Schools are excited too – more than 140 grant applications made the process selective and competitive. You can view the complete list of Reach Higher grantees for a record of all selected high schools. 

Christ Taylor headshot 2013Author: Christi Taylor, MCAN director of statewide initiatives and special projects

Posted: Sept. 30, 2015


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