Could personal coaches help low-income students graduate?

Hyde Park Students

At the Hyde Square Task Force in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, high school senior Yoleiris Gonzalez prepares her very first college application with her mentor Mariah Baril-Dore.

On Thursday at the White House, more than one hundred college presidents will meet with President Obama to discuss ways they can enroll more low-income minority students.  The plan is to help those students graduate on time, without massive debt loads. 

One proposal on the table is to provide more personal and financial coaches.  

At the Hyde Square Task Force in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, mentor Mariah Baril-Dore helps high school senior Yoleiris Gonzalez submit her very first college application.

"Without her, I’d probably still be trying to figure out what I would be doing," says Gonzalez.  "She texts me and she’s like, 'Do this, do that. Have you talked to this person? Have you talked to that person?' She’s on me, so it's very good.”

"Just showing up here every week is the least that I can do," says Baril-Dore.

And if more volunteers show up, more nontraditional students could attend college. It’s one of many ideas expected to come up at the White House today.

But some educators are skeptical about President Obama’s plan, which would tie federal financial aid for colleges to outcomes like graduation rates.

"It is very hard for us to imagine that there would be a handful of metrics that could then be used to rank institutions, given the rich diversity of American institutions of higher education," says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.

Still, Broad says Thursday’s meeting is not just a dog and pony show. After all, college presidents will spend the entire day at the White House discussing how to get more low-income students to graduation day.   

Listen to Kirk's extended interview with Molly Corbett Broad here: 

About the author

Kirk Carapezza is a reporter for WGBH in Boston where he covers higher education, taking the time to capture distinct voices of students and faculty, administrators and thought leaders.

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