College Possible

At a Glance

National Office: 
540 N. Fairview Ave Suite 304
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Phone: (651) 288-9455

Jim McCorkell
People Served: 
64,000
Year Founded: 
2000
Tax ID: 
41-1968798

Focus area(s):

College Access

Description

College Possible was founded as Admission Possible in 2000.  The organization’s entrepreneurial insight is its innovative use of AmeriCorps members for the delivery of college access and success services to low-income students. As the first organization in the country to harness the spirit of national service in this way, College Possible has now spent more than 15 years refining and replicating a uniquely scalable model that delivers top-of-field results with industry-leading cost efficiency. 

Impact and Outcomes

When compared to their low-income peers, a College Possible student is twice as likely to attend a four-year institution and twice as likely to graduate, making our students four times as likely to earn a degree.
98% of College Possible students have earned college admission.
College Possible students graduate at nearly the national average and significantly higher rates than their low-income peers.

Mission & Goals

In the U.S., a college degree is the surest path out of poverty, yet only one low-income student earns a college degree for every nine of their affluent peers. College Possible makes college graduation possible for capable, low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. We envision a future where family income has no bearing on the likelihood a student graduates from college, and believe every student should have the opportunity to go as far as their talent and motivation take them. We serve low-income students in the academic middle (a 2.0 GPA or higher) who have college potential, but lack the tools necessary to access and succeed in college. Through near-peer coaching by recent college graduates, we provide students with information and support they typically cannot get from counseling centers, parents or community networks. Our program closes the degree divide by raising awareness of college opportunities, providing intensive support for low-income students beginning their junior year of high school and following them every step of the way until they earn their college degree.

Program

Founded in Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2000, College Possible has perfected and replicated a model for recruiting, training and motivating recent college graduates to provide a cost-efficient and results-driven program that helps capable, low-income students get into college and persist through graduation. College Possible now operates in six locations coast-to-coast, including Minnesota, Milwaukee, Omaha, Portland, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Our work connects students to idealistic, motivated young people who dedicate a year or more of service to College Possible through AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps member (a “coach”) provides one-on-one and group guidance to low-income students through every stage of the college process: from entrance exam preparation to application to college graduation. The coach acts as a mentor, cheerleader and navigator, helping the student understand the confusing path to college admission and persistence, and breaking down the higher education system into manageable and understandable pieces. The application of the AmeriCorps national service model to the issue of college access and success is one of the key innovations of College Possible’s solution. College Possible was the first in the nation to use this model and prove its effectiveness. The AmeriCorps model allows for a successful, cost-effective and highly replicable solution. College Possible’s model operates at one-fifth the cost of the most comparable federally-funded program.

In the high school-based program, AmeriCorps coaches work with groups of 10-15 students in two-hour sessions twice a week. Using our proven curriculum, students spend up to 320 hours of time on task, working through sessions that cover topics addressing the academic, financial, psychological and informational gaps that are key barriers for low-income students. After high school, College Possible continues to serve students throughout their college career as they work toward graduation and workforce entry. College coaches provide targeted, proactive support to foster college enrollment, persistence and graduation by addressing common academic, financial and cultural barriers to low-income students' college success. Coaches are an invested advocate who reinforces help-seeking behavior and provides insight to accessing the complex array of support services provided by the college. 

Impact

Our expertise in closing the achievement gap has been confirmed by five independent evaluations, including two Harvard studies (2011 and 2013). The 2013 Harvard evaluation, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Dr. Christopher Avery, found that College Possible has a significant positive effect on four-year college enrollment for low-income students. College Possible is the first college access organization to attempt such a rigorous evaluation. Nationally, only 12% of RCTs show a positive finding (Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, 2013). Also in 2013, ICF International completed an independent evaluation of our program’s impact on college students. The study found that College Possible students enrolled in college, persisted and earned bachelor’s degrees at much higher rates than similar peers. The evaluation concluded that College Possible’s coaching model has a significant positive influence on college success, eliminating historical achievement gaps in persistence.

Our results are among the best in the nation in the field of college success for low-income students. 

+        In 2016-17, College Possiblewill serve nearly 30,000 students in six sites across the country.

+        98 percent of College Possible students have earned admission to college.

+        Our students are four times more likely to graduate from college than their low-income peers. 

+        Our students graduate from college at a rate that nearly equals that of students of all incomes, indicating that we’ve truly leveled the playing field for low-income students in pursuit of a college degree.

Growth Plan

College Possible has been rapidly expanding over the past several years and now has physical locations in six cities across the country. However, even our rapid expansion is not keeping pace with the scope of the college access and success problem. In response, we underwent a strategic planning process in 2015 with our Board of Directors. The process was supported by significant pro bono consulting assistance from Monitor Deloitte, brokered by New Profit in consideration of College Possible being part of their Innovation Fund Portfolio. The goal of the planning process was clear: Find a way to achieve transformative scale – to serve significantly more low-income students than through the traditional direct service model.  \

The end result of the planning process was remarkable: College Possible developed a growth and scaling strategy anchored on a capacity-building model that enables colleges to better support low-income students through graduation. Partner colleges will receive support to build College Possible’s proven curriculum into their infrastructure. We will train and support institutions to hire and manage near-peer coaches who are recent college graduates, thus utilizing the college's high-quality existing staff to implement our model. College Possible’s new model represents a groundbreaking shift to systems-level change across the higher education sector.   

Our growth strategy began in Spring 2016 by partnering more deeply with colleges and universities that share our vision and desire to close the degree divide. In Years 1 and 2 of the development and growth phase, we will collaborate with our partners to carefully design learning objectives that test key hypotheses related to our new model on their campuses – this will be executed by providing and evaluating our tried and true, high quality curriculum and support as a direct service to Pell-eligible college students on select partner campuses. To have the most robust learnings as possible, College Possible developed key objectives for the growth and development phase of the strategic plan. These include gaining a better understanding of our partner institutions’ needs and identifying how the College Possible model can best serve them. Further, because this will be the first time we will introduce the College Possible program to college students who did not participate in College Possible’s high school program, we want to take this opportunity to improve the college program offerings and make necessary adjustments for this new audience.

In Year 3 and beyond, we will impart the knowledge we have gained in our history of working exclusively with low-income students, provide capacity building support, and give guidance to our campus partners to build our proven curriculum into their infrastructure. This plan will result in a greater capacity of institutions to support low-income students, higher numbers of low-income college graduates, and an increased talent pool for the workforce. 

Location of Sites

National Office: 
540 N. Fairview Ave Suite 304
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Phone: (651) 288-9455
List of locations

To make a contribution to a program site:

  1. Click on the "Make a Contribution Now" button and include the name, city and state of the program you would like to support, in the "notes" text box on the organization's donation form, if available.
  2. If a "notes" or "designation" box is not available, write the city and state on your check in the "notes" section or call the national office to designate your contribution to a local program site.

Locations in the following states:

Illinois

Minnesota

Nebraska

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Financials

Most Recent Budget

Year Ended:

2014

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$2,912,153
Foundation Grants: 
$3,183,590
Government Funding: 
$1,187,774
Contributions from Individuals: 
$735,000
Special Events: 
$0
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$0
Other Earned Income: 
$0
Other Revenue: 
$188,691
Other Revenue (Description): 
Interest income from investments and in-kind contributions
Total Revenue: 
$8,207,208

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$6,339,801
Occupancy: 
$56,200
Travel & Entertainment: 
$357,000
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$216,984
Telephone & Communications: 
$378,964
Payments to Affiliates: 
$0
Other Expenses: 
$200,646
Other Expenses (Description): 

Depreciation, bank and service fees, ACT entrance exam waivers, hiring costs

Other Expenses (Description): 

Total Expenses: 
$7,549,595

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain/Loss: 
$657,613

Prior Year Actuals

Year Ended:

2013

REVENUE

Corporate Grants: 
$1,872,705
Foundation Grants: 
$3,183,398
Government Funding: 
$1,073,143
Contributions from Individuals: 
$701,066
Program Services Fees: 
$0
Membership Dues: 
$149,654
Other Earned Income: 
$78,246
Other Revenue: 
$49,630
Other Revenue (Description): 
Interest income from investments and in-kind contributions
Special Events: 
$0
Total Revenue: 
$7,107,842

EXPENSES

Salaries, Related Salaries & Professional Fees: 
$5,362,629
Occupancy: 
$368,281
Travel & Entertainment: 
$252,106
Office Supplies, Printing, Postage: 
$162,339
Telephone & Communication: 
$322,426
Payments to Affiliates: 
$0
Other Expenses: 
$75,545
Other Expenses (Description): 

Depreciation, bank and service fees, ACT entrance exam waivers, hiring costs

Total Expenses: 
$6,543,326

NET GAIN/LOSS

Net Gain / Loss: 
$564,516

Major Funders

U.S. Department of Education

$3,000,000

5 years

Corporation for National and Community Service       

$2,400,000

1 year

Travelers

$1,250,000

1 year

Bloomberg Philanthropies

$1,600,000

1 year

New Profit       

$1,000,000

4 years

AT&T             

$900,000

2 years

Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

$715,000

2 years

The Kresge Foundation

$500,000

2 years