By Julie Faryniarz
May 1st is an important date for college-bound high school seniors. It is the day that students all over the country pay their deposit at the college they plan to attend in the fall. There are so many factors that come into play when making this momentous decision. At the Greenwich Alliance for Education, we pay very close attention to both the college process and to the factors that inform the enrollment choices of GHS AVID seniors. We have been doing this since 2013 when the first sixteen AVID graduates walked across the stage under the tutelage of Missy Brown.
The two sections of the Class of 2022 are taught by Ms. Brown and Ms. Bittman. This year, there will be 37 graduates – (10 male, 26 female and 1 non-binary) and 100% have been accepted to college. These teachers along with Mara Subach (GHS AVID Site Coordinator) and Judith Nedell (GPS AVID District Director) have spent many months helping the students craft college lists, write essays, submit the FAFSA, and then when college acceptances finally arrive, dive deep into financial aid packages (scholarships and loans) to really understand the cost of attending one school versus another. And this can be very hard.
Many AVID students want or need to stay local for college for financial reasons and there are not enough affordable local options. Financial aid packages seem to be staying the same, even as college costs continue to rise. Families frequently have fewer resources to pay for college, as a result of COVID, inflation, and a variety of other factors.
Ms. Brown writes, “It seems like a systemic failure of higher education in the US. Not sure what the Alliance can do about that, but I figured I’d throw it out there as a talking point anyway. How is it that as we ‘level the academic playing field’ and ‘close the achievement gap’ with a program like AVID, it still seems like the only kids who get to pursue their college dreams are the ones who are able to pay for it?” This reality applies for many high school seniors and is not specific to AVID graduates.
While there are challenges and tough decisions to be made there has also been a lot of good news for our AVID graduates. As mentioned before, 100% of the AVID Class of 2022 have been accepted to college. College acceptances have been at or near this level for AVID students since the program was launched in 2013. According to AVID.org, “AVID programs in every high school environment produce college-ready students at rates that far exceed national benchmarks.” In 2021, Greenwich High School senior data reported 91% enrollment in college.
Next fall Class of 2022 AVIDS students will be attending Emory, Lehigh, Connecticut College, George Washington, and Providence College because theese schools met full need or offered substantial renewable scholarships reducing the cost of attendance to a more realistic and affordable level. UCONN Stamford is offering generous aid packages and making the option to stay close to home an easier decision for students. In past years, some students have started in Stamford and later transferred to UCONN Storrs as they and their families have become more comfortable with the college experience. Mercy and Manhattanville Colleges have also offered generous packages to students this year.
AVID teachers and guidance counselors encourage students to write appeal letters for increased financial aid. Most of the time, the school will offer a nominal addition to the aid package – maybe $1-3K of a $20K gap. Recently, one very excited AVID student was offered an additional $13K renewable scholarship after Fordham read her appeals letter.
The Greenwich Alliance AVID SUCCESS provides many programs for AVID students in high school to extend what the AVID teachers are doing in the classroom, including Good Money Habits, Mentoring, and Jobs & Professional Tools supports.
AVID SUCCESS Mentor Nancy Kail writes about her experience with Kandi, her mentee,
“It was so gratifying to speak to my mentee about her college commitment decision on May 1st. We have been working on this day for the past one and a half years. During our time together I have helped her leverage existing guidance resources at GHS, encouraged her to have a job and to save money for college. She has an Educate & Prosper College Savings Account at Members Credit Union and will receive her full match of $500 from the Greenwich Alliance because she has saved $2000! I have watched her become more confident and build her skills as a self advocate. She is already in touch with the financial aid office at her college and is asking important questions. I am so excited to help her navigate her college journey.”
Congratulations AVID Class of 2022! We look forward to celebrating with you and your families at the annual AVID Graduation Celebration and to your transition to AVID Alumni status where the Alliance will continue to support you in college and beyond!