Michigan's College Access Blog

NCAN is Coming to Michigan: Join Us in Detroit!

The National College Access Network is heading to Detroit, Michigan on September 19-21 for this year’s annual conference, Driving Postsecondary Education For All. This is incredibly exciting for those in Michigan’s college access movement and the team at MCAN is thrilled to welcome our colleagues from across the country to our backyard. This conference is the largest gathering of college access professionals in the country and, without a doubt, will leave you feeling inspired and connected.

The national conference is an excellent opportunity to showcase Michigan’s strong college access and success network. Michigan has been driving a number of leading college access strategies for some time and calling for community leaders to reach higher. For the sixth year in a row, Michigan’s degree attainment rate has increased. Fueling the growing college-going culture in the state are nearly 50 local college access networks, including the Detroit College Access Network.

We are not afraid to try new strategies and Detroit is no stranger to innovation. Detroit helped inspire NCAN’s recent FAFSA Completion Challenge grant and was awarded funding to support current FAFSA completion efforts. By establishing a citywide strategy for FAFSA completion, the city of Detroit substantially increased FAFSA completion from 54 percent in 2012 to 70 percent in 2013. Last year, the Detroit College Access Network helped host First Lady Michelle Obama for its first-ever citywide College Signing Day event. And more recently, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that graduates of Detroit high schools can attend two years at a local community college tuition-free. The Detroit Promise last-dollar scholarship will be available to graduates of any Detroit public, private, or charter high school.

Registration Challenge

NCAN, The Kresge Foundation and MCAN have set a goal to get 1,000 people to the D – and I know the Michigan network will help us meet that goal. Take advantage of this incredible networking and learning experience while it’s in our state and register today.

Registration is $595 for NCAN members and $695 for non-members, if you register by August 26. If your organization registered five or more people, there is a $25 discount per person. NCAN is also offering scholarship sponsor opportunities that would allow for organizations to sponsor the conference and receive 10-40 registrations as part of the sponsorship package.

This may be the one and only time that there is an opportunity to attend the NCAN conference without having to incur significant airfare costs, so let’s take advantage of it. Let’s welcome our national friends and show them why we’re proud of the college access and success movement in Michigan.

See you in Detroit!


Author: Brandy Johnson, executive director
Posted: June 8, 2016

Promoting College Access and Success in Partnership with a Community Foundation

Q&A with Ashley Kryscynski of Washtenaw Futures College Access Network 

Community Foundations are natural constituents of Local College Access Networks. They seek to improve the quality of life for all residents in a community, and typically promote educational advancement of students by managing a variety of scholarship programs. However what’s not so typical, is for a community foundation to align its scholarship funding language and efforts with that of an LCAN’s college access and success goals, and to pool money into a broad, new scholarship program. Fortunately for the students of Washtenaw County, that is exactly what happened in their community. 

For this Spotlight, MCAN interviewed Washtenaw Futures College Access Network Coordinator Ashley Kryscynski, to discuss the new Community Scholarship Program and Level the Playing Field Fund offered through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Q: Please describe the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation’s new Community Scholarship Program and Level the Playing Field Fund.

A: "The new Community Scholarship Program serves students from one or more of the following target populations in Washtenaw County, which also are target populations for Washtenaw Futures: (1) students from low-income families; (2) students of color; and/or (3) first-generation college students – meaning neither parent holds a college degree. The Level the Playing Field Fund is part of the Community Scholarship Program, and was made possible through a significant, anonymous donation. The fund requires that students have financial need and gives preference to students from the local public school systems. It also assigns each scholarship recipient with a College Success Coach." 

Q: What gave the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation the idea for its new Community Scholarship Program?

A: "In 2014, AAACF President and CEO Neel Hajra (who sits on the Washtenaw Futures Leadership Team) and his board wanted to think about how they could align their efforts to support college access and attainment with Washtenaw Futures’ and MCAN's goals. The Community Foundation was managing 45 scholarships that were available to students entering or already enrolled in college. However, through active engagement with Washtenaw Futures, they really understood that unaffordability after freshman year and lack of understanding how to navigate the college culture, were big barriers to college persistence and completion." 

Q: What prompted the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation to align its scholarship funding language to that of Washtenaw Futures? How did Washtenaw Futures help facilitate this change?

 "AAACF has always had a focus on supporting the needs of our community and deeply understands their role in improving the quality of life for all residents in Washtenaw County. I think this particular alignment stemmed from our Washtenaw Futures Leadership Team digging into local disaggregated data and then having intense conversations around the many barriers to not only accessing college, but also completing it. 

The Community Foundation recognized that, across the board, it already does a great job of sending students to college; however, once they looked more deeply into the data, they saw that many students are not persisting or completing – especially low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color. As a community that is focused on equity, this glaring disparity is impossible to ignore. Washtenaw Futures became a partner in helping the AAACF navigate conversations, more deeply understand the issue and barriers, and recommend ways in which a scholarship program can highly impact the lives of local students."

Q: Tell us about the College Success Coach pilot program and its goals.

A: "All recipients of AAACF’s Level the Field Playing Fund will have a College Success Coach through Washtenaw Futures. The Success Coach will assist in supporting a student’s transition to higher education, help students to access the many opportunities available on their college campuses, as well as serve as a general resource for students throughout their college experience.   

The idea for the College Success Coach stemmed from knowledge that first-generation, low-income students and students of color often face difficulty in understanding how to navigate the college culture. The concept is based on our existing College Coaching Corps partnership with Eastern Michigan University. Persisting through college takes more than just having the financial means, and so AAACF's Community Scholarship Program opens the door to financial, social, and academic support for students who, as indicated in data, struggle the most in college.

With funding from AAACF and Washtenaw Community College, Washtenaw Futures will manage and oversee the College Success Coach position; Washtenaw Community College will be the backbone organization for the position; and Eastern Michigan University will provide training and the applicant pool."

Q: Will the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation’s more specific, pre-existing college scholarships continue to be offered in addition to the new Level the Playing Field Fund?

A: "Yes, the Level the Playing Field Fund will go toward supporting and expanding the Community Scholarship Program, and then the other 45 more specific scholarships will continue to be offered. The most significant change in how the AAACF manages their scholarship programming will be that they will no longer accept funds for new specific scholarships; rather donors will be encouraged to establish named funds within the Community Scholarship Fund or make contributions to existing funds, like the Level the Playing Field Fund."

Q: How does involvement of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation help bring attention to, and advance the efforts of Washtenaw Futures?

A: "I think AAACF’s involvement bringing attention to and advancing our efforts has been a tremendous help! It shines a spotlight on the fact that not all students in Washtenaw County are attending college (a very common misconception in a community with several colleges and universities). It also highlights that the path of getting to and completing college is incredibly challenging and complicated. Despite what many people think, Washtenaw County also is home to many students living in poverty, students who have never been to a college campus, and students whose parents have never been to college or whose parents started and never completed a program. These students are often overlooked because of the prestigious awards and recognition our community receives, but they absolutely still need our support. The new scholarship program reminds our community that our work is not done."

Q: What steps do you recommend for other Local College Access Networks that may seek to form a similar alliance with their community foundations, and that want to broaden local college scholarship opportunities that better encourage access and persistence?

A: "I think communities are oftentimes so focused on building a scholarship program like the Kalamazoo Promise, that there’s a “go big or go home” mentality. We tend to worry that we can’t do everything all at once, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something we can do in the meantime. This Community Scholarship Program is a building block for our community that already has caused us to think differently, shift the conversation, and start finding out what works for us while directly impacting students."


Author: Sarah Anthony
Posted: May 25, 2016

Decision Day Blog Contest Feature, Part Five

This is the fifth and final blog in a series of five installments written or filmed by high school seniors, that explain how college will be a "game changer." The blogs were selected from entries to MCAN's Decision Day Blog Contest, which celebrates the college-selection decision happening for thousands of students throughout the state of Michigan. A winning entry has been featured on MCAN's blog every Tuesday, beginning April 26 and through May 24.


How I Hope College Will Be a Game Changer

By Abby Smith, Maple Valley High School

With college comes an opportunity for you to create a new image. It is a time when everyone has a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. I've heard of many people who didn't take high school seriously or enjoy it all that much, but they still turned out alright (wink wink). One of those is my dad, who is now a successful project manager! College is a whole new world. 

I don't think that I've ever been overly excited about the topic of college. Up to this year I did not really feel like college was my thing. I always wanted to skip ahead, go travel, and try to make it on my own. I had looked at college like I had looked at school: try to fit in, try to make friends and most of all, try to get good grades.

However, this is NOT how I am going to look at college. Instead, it will look more like this: try to fit in  live authenticallytry to make friends  be open to new things (and make friends), try to get good grades  and put learning>good grades. I put learning above good grades because I've realized that having an "A" in my class hasn't necessarily meant that I've been fully applying myself. As I've reached my senior year I have become more appreciative of the classes that taught me more; good letter grades don't mean as much. 

game chang·er

an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.
"a potential game changer that could revitalize the entire US aerospace industry"

Along with school realizations, I have also realized how much of an impact my high school and my small town have made on my life. The people I've met, the opportunities I've been given, and the books that I've (been forced or recommended to) read have inspired me to want to be the best person that I can be. I've learned that I want to be a well-rounded person and have opinions on lots of things. I want to meet new people and hear new stories. I want to have more "ah-hah!" moments, which occur when something I've previously learned clicks and makes more sense. And most of all, I want to grow my faith with God and be excited to share it with others.

All of those things that I just mentioned, well...Those are my hopes for college. I've always enjoyed high school, but there have been few times where I have felt uncomfortable. This sounds like a weird request, but I really do hope that I experience more uncomfortable and vulnerable moments. I've found that those are the times when I have grown the most and have figured out more of who I want to become. 

Every section of my life, both good and bad, has been a part of my giant puzzle. The good parts are the pieces that fit together just the way you expected them to.  And the bad parts are like the pieces that deceive you and look like they fit, but don't. However, they all end up connecting and creating a masterpiece.

I am excited to say that I am actually looking forward to college. Bigger city, more people, and unlimited food? Yes, please! I know that I am going to change as a person, but I hope that the change is good... I hope my college will put me on a road to success and prepare me for the flat tires, crazy drivers, and Michigan potholes. I hope that I learn lots, gain opportunities, and adjust to vulnerability. This is how I hope college will be a game changer.


Posted: May 24, 2016 

Decision Day Blog Contest Feature, Part Four

This blog is the fourth in a series of five installments written or filmed by high school seniors, that explain how college will be a "game changer." The blogs were selected from entries to MCAN's Decision Day Blog Contest, which celebrates the college-selection decision happening for thousands of students throughout the state of Michigan. A winning entry will be featured on MCAN's blog every Tuesday, beginning April 26 and through May 24.


How I Hope Life at Cornerstone University Will be a Game Changer

By Kodie Hansen, Vestaburg Community High School



Posted May 17, 2016

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