Michigan's College Access Blog

The Face Behind a Vote

Jimmie Cotter attended the Michigan College Access Network’s 2019 Annual Advocacy Day and had the opportunity to meet with his local legislators to help improve the state of college access in Michigan. 

At the age of 25, I’ve been eligible to vote in the past three midterm elections, yet I only have a .333 midterm batting average to show for it. Truth be told it had never felt so necessary, for many reasons, to exercise this bi-annual civic duty than it did last fall. Relatively unaware of my district’s boundaries, past and direction moving forward, I educated myself enough to feel comfortable participating in this, my very first midterm election. On a rainy November evening with the task completed, I sat back to wonder how the folks I supported with my vote would make the most of it and began an unintentional waiting game of again feeling disengaged.

These are the specific thoughts that ran through my head as I approached an office door reading “Senator Sean McCann”, the very same name that sat beside a box I checked during my first midterm election. As I reviewed my talking points and the legislative priorities most pertinent to my everyday professional life, it was somewhat of a surreal feeling knowing a vote came full circle, and paired with MCAN’s Advocacy Day programming, would give me a direct opportunity to bring some influence at a state level by conversing with a man in office I voted for. Once the cordial greeting and transition into his office overlooking the Capitol was complete, I took the time to share with Senator McCann that about 50% of students in our school are eligible for the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), and how vital it is our state continues to fund this program. TIP not only makes tuition possible at our local community college, but as many TIP beneficiaries are also Pell eligible, it makes life possible in limiting the many indirect costs that come with college. It’s a lifeline for the postsecondary pursuits of Comstock High School graduates each year. Additionally, I took time to inform Senator McCann that over 30% of the Comstock community has some college experience, but no degree to show for it, and how much impact his support for the Michigan Reconnect Program would have on a single small town residing in his district. As Senator McCann echoed the importance of the information we shared with him, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the young people I work alongside every day at Comstock High School could somehow be positively affected by way of my actions in an arena larger than just the school grounds.

Thirty minutes of undivided attention from a State Senator is a powerful opportunity and is one each participant has when they take part in MCAN’s annual Advocacy Day. Heck, you may even get a chance to talk about the different neighborhoods and best restaurants in the town you share with those you cast your vote for. After all, they’re just everyday people.

Author: Jimmie Cotter
Posted May 21, 2019

Cultivating a College-Going Culture: An Adviser’s Reflection

AdviseMI is an initiative of the Michigan College Access Network that works with AmeriCorps to place recent college graduates in Michigan high schools with low college-going rates. The advisers are trained to help students navigate the complex college exploration process, retake college admissions tests, apply to colleges that are a good match/fit, complete the FAFSA, secure financial aid, and matriculate to college.

Asha Shaw is a second-year adviser who serves at Redford Union High School.

Cultivating a college-going culture is a daunting task, even more so as a first-year college adviser in a “new school” – a school that did not have a college adviser previously. Fully aware that a college-going culture wouldn’t bloom overnight, I sought out ways I could plant “college seeds” throughout Redford Union High School. I focused on three things: create a college-going appearance, build trust with my students, and give them access to college information.

I began by changing the appearance in the school, well at least, in my office. I hung college pennants, logos and posters. I created a "get to know me" wall that detailed my own college experience at Michigan State University. I displayed important information about FAFSA, applications, scholarships, etc. The favorite part of my office was the mirror with college phrases around it, so students could look in the mirror and say aloud “I am college material,” or “I am going to college in the fall.” I wanted my students to see themselves as college material just as much I told them they were.

Next, I introduced myself in a series of classroom visits detailing who I was and my purpose at Redford Union. I started by honestly speaking about my college experience as someone who has a bachelor’s degree in finance, but somehow found her way to education. I knew that it was important for me to gain the trust of my students so that I would be in a better position to serve them as their college adviser. It took until November for students to begin scheduling appointments with me, but once they started, they never stopped.

Within the blink of an eye, it was Michigan College Month (MCM) and it was time to jump into college overdrive. I hosted Paying for College Night, I held open labs for students to work on college applications, and I had one-on-one meetings with students. I went into the classrooms weekly to discuss writing college essays, completing college applications, submitting the FAFSA, etc. I brought in over 25 colleges for representative visits, where students could learn more about the types of colleges and universities that existed. Students who participated in college-related events were entered in a raffle as an incentive. We even had a district-wide college door decorating contest. My presence in the building provided Redford Union with more capacity to focus on college-going activities.

One of my highlights as a college adviser over the past two years is the “Wall of Acceptances.” This is a wall outside of my office where I hang every college acceptance to recognize and uplift my seniors and inspire the underclassmen. It is exciting listening to juniors’ talk about which schools they might apply to next year or hear freshmen voice their dream schools or sophomores express their interest in a specific type of school or even staff reflect on their own time at college. Most importantly, this wall is a way to spark a hunger for knowledge and information regarding college. It’s a conversation starter for the entire school.

Creating a college-going culture is about providing students access to information about college. If students are knowledgeable about their college options, then they are better prepared to make informed decisions about their postsecondary plans. Every day my goal is to plant a “college seed” at Redford Union and watch it blossom into a strong and productive college-going environment for students.

Author: Asha Shaw
Posted May 7, 2019

Why I’m Excited About the Eighth Annual Joyce Ivy College Admissions Symposium and You Should Be, Too

Elizabeth Harlow is a volunteer for the Joyce Ivy Foundation. 

I first learned about the Joyce Ivy Foundation as a brand new admissions officer at Duke University. As Duke’s regional rep for the state of Michigan, I had the great pleasure of participating in the first annual Joyce Ivy College Admissions Symposium in 2012. I’ve been a fan and a volunteer ever since.

The Joyce Ivy Foundation’s multi-pronged approach to its mission of supporting the academic advancement and leadership of midwestern women makes it a unique organization in the college access landscape, and its annual symposium always impresses me with the depth of service-oriented expertise it brings together in one weekend.

Next month will bring the eighth annual Joyce Ivy College Admissions Symposium (JCAS) to Detroit and Ann Arbor on May 17 and 18. It’s not too late to register, and I hope you do!

About JCAS

The two-day program features interactive college admissions and financial aid workshops designed for education professionals, students, and families. Thanks to donor support, participation is free of charge for school counselors, community-based organization leaders, and eligible students.

Sessions on Friday, May 17 will be offered for high school counselors and community-based organization leaders to learn about highly selective admissions, need-based financial aid, and to share best practices in a collaborative setting. Sessions on Saturday, May 18, are designed to help talented female high school sophomores, juniors, and their families learn more about admission to highly selective colleges and the process of applying for financial aid. 

Workshops will be led by admissions and financial aid officers from a sampling of the country’s most selective colleges and universities, as well as experienced college counselors. Returning faculty members include representatives from Princeton University, Amherst College, Wellesley College, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and The University of Pennsylvania, among others.

This year’s event will also feature representatives from an assortment of merit scholarship programs with enrichment programming, including the Coca-Cola Scholars Program, Morehead-Cain, the Office of Scholar Programs at Washington University in St. Louis, the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, and the Robertson Scholars Program.

Past JCAS participant, 2019 Summer Scholar, and Mary Vandewiele Leadership Award Recipient Alejandra Gonzalez attests to what exposure to these resources meant for her this past year: “JCAS helped me understand the college admissions world and my experience as a Joyce Ivy Summer Scholar helped me realize what college meant to me. After Summer College, I looked back at my JCAS notes and knew where I belonged and what I had to offer colleges - I was ready to apply! Without JCAS and my experience as a Summer Scholar, my chances of getting into or even applying to my dream school wouldn’t have existed.”

Expanding Reach

Since 2012, the annual symposium has reached over 400 counselors and educators throughout Michigan and Ohio, as well as over 2,000 students and families. In past years, a few young women have even traveled from as far as North Dakota and Missouri to attend!

We know that even shorter distance regional travel isn’t always feasible for many Joyce Ivy seeks to reach: counselors are busy as the school year hurtles toward its end, and many students lack access to transportation. This year’s JCAS has made it a priority to shift and expand regional accessibility for those further away from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, where we have held all symposium events in past years.

The Joyce Ivy Foundation is partnering with University Prep Schools and the Detroit College Access Network (DCAN) to host the Friday counselor event in Detroit, and DCAN will help transport students from Detroit to Ann Arbor for Saturday’s event. Earlier this year, the Joyce Ivy Foundation also piloted its first fall event - the Joyce Ivy College Admissions Workshop - at the University of Detroit Mercy. We’re hopeful to continue this growth and exposure in Detroit.  

How to Register

Counselors and community-based organization leaders interested in attending JCAS on Friday, May 17, and female high school sophomores and juniors interested in attending the program on Saturday, May 18, can register and find more information at www.joyceivyfoundation.org.

On behalf of the volunteer planning team, I hope to see you there!

Author: Elizabeth Harlow, Joyce Ivy Foundation Volunteer
Posted: April 23, 2019


MiSTEM Council and Network—What is MiSTEM?

Megan Schrauben works for the State of Michigan as the Executive Director of the MiSTEM Network

In 2015 the legislature established the Governor’s Michigan Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (MiSTEM) Advisory Council with annual duties such as creating and recommending changes to a statewide STEM strategy and granting out state school aid dollars in support of STEM education efforts. Why might you care about MiSTEM? In 2017 the legislature set dollars aside to create a MiSTEM Network plan that transformed our state into 16 regional networks made up of business, higher education, K-12 education, and philanthropic leaders guided by the recommendations of the Council members—a collective impact model similar to the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN).

Efforts such as MCAN have proven successful in bringing together members of their communities interested in a common goal—to increase the percentage of Michigan residents with a college degree or valuable credential to 60% by the year 2025. This is a goal that MiSTEM also applauds and believes they can collaboratively work to impact. MiSTEM brings together interested partners to impact four pillars which make up the foundation of the statewide STEM strategy:

1. Create a culture of STEM,

2. Empower STEM teachers,

3. Integrate business & education, and

4. Ensure high-quality STEM experiences.

These four pillars do not work in isolation from each other, but instead operate as an integrated vision of STEM. In fact, all components of the MiSTEM Network plan work together to build a robust STEM culture in our state that is focused on providing STEM learning experiences that not only move forward workforce talent development, but also significantly contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of our communities. Enacting the four pillars will require many people in many different parts of the system to redefine and transform their beliefs about teaching and learning, as well as their professional roles, relationships, and collaborative practices. We believe that these four pillars working together will help to reinvigorate our education system by identifying and building onto community assets that provide authentic contexts for learning, but also rich career awareness, exploration, and preparation experiences at the same time.

We invite you to join one of the 16 regional networks to reimagine what is possible and scale up what works across our state. We would also welcome the opportunity to meet with your groups to see how we might better align efforts in support of building an aligned education and workforce development system that serve to significantly increase our postsecondary credential earning!

The Council released their annual recommendations in January as well as announced the grant recipients for the year. We hope that you will review the recommendations and engage with us on this journey.


Author: Megan Schrauben
Posted: April 16, 2019
Phone: 517-643-5957
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Michigan College Access Network | 200 N Washington Square, Suite 210, Lansing, MI 48933 (map) | (517) 316-1713 Contact Us | Site Map | Terms and Privacy