Pre-College Assistance Programs

The Basic Idea:

Increase the opportunities for promising “at-risk” students to go to college and increase their lifetime earning potential.

How it works:

  • Identify low-income students who show the academic promise to go to college, but face formidable economic and social barriers.
  • Help students with school achievement through tutoring and counseling.
  • Provide guidance with the college application, selection and financial aid processes.
  • Provide mentorship as students adjust to collegiate academic and social challenges.

Who Does It

  • Local and national non-profits dedicated to student achievement
  • Charter schools


  • With timely and effective interventions, the number of students who can matriculate and succeed in college can be increased dramatically.
  • The cooperation and participation of parents or guardians is a key to student success.
  • Successful programs can be replicated in a rural environment.


  • Programs can be expensive to run.
  • There are few rural models.
  • The cooperation and participation of parents or guardians is a key to student success.

Simplicity Index

  • A Mixed Bag of Fruits and Nuts. The secrets of success are no secret here. Interventions in key academic, social and economic areas bear fruit. The cost of the programs can be high and the best programs do benefit from a level of parental and community involvement that is not universal.

Quilt It

  • Grow It: Concept of childrens’ savings accounts fits nicely to meet the needs of the at-risk populations involved.

Examples and Resources

Admission Possible (Minneapolis, MN) serves 1,300 low-income students in the Twin Cities, and has a 99% college admission rate. They provide four critical services: 1) standardized test preparation, 2) college application guidance, help in obtaining financial aid, and college transition guidance.

Posse Foundation is based in six cities nationally. Posse identifies a multi-cultural group of students who they feel have leadership potential but may have trouble gaining admission to college and helps them gain admission and succeed. They organize support groups (posses) of 10 fellow students and provide leadership training, financial assistance, campus support and career training. They have partnerships with 33 top colleges and universities. Posse students have a 90% college graduation rate.

Agassi Prep (Las Vegas, NV) opened by the Andre Agassi Foundation is a K-12 public charter school that operates in Las Vegas’ most at risk neighborhood. Agassi Prep operates an extra 2 hours per day and is open for 10 days longer per year standard public schools (an extra four years of education by the end of a high school career). The majority of students now perform above grade level in reading, writing and math levels, while none of their students performed at grade level in any subject when the school opened. The Foundation will provide financial aid assistance and scholarship for college.

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RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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