$8.7 Million Grant Aims To Get More Arizona Kids Enrolled In College
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is awarding $8.7 million to ASU and the Be A Leader Foundation with the goal of getting more underserved Arizona high school students into college.
Under the new grant, 23 high schools in the Phoenix, Mesa and Tolleson districts will work with Access ASU and the Be A Leader Foundation to develop strategies to increase college enrollment among graduating students. The majority of students at those schools are minorities, with most qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.
Tolleson Union High School District superintendent Nora Gutierrez said in her district, many students struggle to find funding for college. She wants to see more students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, but said the student-to-college counselor ratio in her district is more than 300-to-1. She's optimistic the grant will help.
“We know that our students have the potential to reach college-going and beyond, we just know that we’re not all at the same starting points, and therefore we need access to interventions and assistance,” Gutierrez said. “This grant is going to give us the opportunity to provide more access to our students. We want a level playing field and when you have additional funds and additional resources it levels the playing field.”
The rate of graduating seniors going onto college in Arizona is around 50%, more than 15 percentage points below the national average, according to the Arizona Board of Regents. Among Black and Latino students in Arizona, the rate is even lower.