What This Boston Funder is Doing to Raise College Completion Rates

A 2008 study found that while Boston Public Schools graduates had some of the highest college enrollment rates in the country, a below-average 35.5 percent of those students earned a degree within seven years. Thus began a concerted effort to raise that number. The Boston Foundation just made close to $1 million to seven groups as part of the initiative. 

Former Mayor Thomas Menino challenged stakeholders—including the district itself, the Boston Foundation, local colleges and nonprofits—to get the college completion rate up, forming Success Boston. Since it began, the initiative has reported progress, announcing last year that the number for the class of 2006 had risen to 49.2 percent. The national rate is about 47 percent.

If rates hold up, that’s a big jump that puts the city on its way to hitting Menino’s ambitious goal of 70 percent for the class of 2012. Boston was one of the first cities in the country to make college completion a major part of its education goals. 

Success Boston is a group effort, and the Boston Foundation recently announced $925,000 in grants to seven organizations as part of the initiative. The winners are:  

  • American Student Assistance Corporation, a nonprofit that helps students manage and repay student loans.
  • Boston Private Industry Council, the city’s workforce investment board.
  • Bottom Line, a mentoring program for at-risk urban youth.
  • Freedom House, an anti-poverty youth development program.
  • Hyde Square Task Force, a renowned community program benefiting the Hyde/Jackson Square area, Boston’s Latin Quarter.
  • UAspire, a Boston-based, national organization providing college financial advice to students.
  • West End House, a Boys & Girls Club chapter.

The grants will provide counseling and support to a cohort of 250 Boston Public Schools students participating in the program. The Success Boston grants make up just under half of $2.2 million the Boston Foundation announced for the second quarter of FY14. One other notable grant for the quarter went to the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, providing $300,000 to expand an initiative to curb childhood obesity in Boston by encouraging physical exercise. 

Check out IP’s profile of The Boston Foundation here.