12:00 AM

New Ohio State program promotes college access

A new initiative aimed at getting low-income families to start thinking about college at an early age has been launched by The Ohio State University. Through it's new “Blueprint: College” program, the university is working with families of 4th and 5th grade students in five Columbus City Schools to create “blueprint plans” to help set the right path toward academic and college success.

The program demonstrates Ohio State's commitment to becoming a national leader in economic access to higher education.

The pilot program includes 47 families, parents and their students, in five underserved Columbus elementary schools: Africentric, East Pilgrim, Leawood@Koebel, Livingston@Beck and Siebert. The families are low-income and have little college experience.

Blueprint: College is one of several university initiatives to offer students and parents at low-income levels the resources and information that can help improve their academic preparedness for college. The projects are coordinated by several Ohio State offices, including Undergraduate Admissions and First Year Experience, the P-12 Project, and the Economic Access Initiative, which works to ensure all qualified students, regardless of income, can make the dream of attending college a reality.

Tally Hart, director of the Economic Access Initiative, says the perceived cost of college often will delay families in making early and important decisions to pursue higher education. “Interestingly, these are also the right steps to be prepared for the jobs of the future,” Hart said. “It is important for students and parents to understand that if they plan early and take the right classes, college is affordable and financial assistance will be available.”

Blueprint: College, which kicked-off in April, includes five weekly workshops for parents, a campus exploration day, and a program graduation ceremony. Workshops are held at Livingston@Beck Elementary School. To make it easier for families to attend, the program also includes weekly dinners prior to the workshops, child care, and bus transportation.

At the workshops, parents learn about the benefits and requirements of going to college, create a college-track academic plan for their student's middle school years and have a resource to chart their progress; fill out sample college and financial aid applications and learn to use college scholarship resources.

The program was designed for parents because “we know that parents are the most important influence for students in educational decisions,” said Amy Wade, assistant director of Early College Outreach and coordinator of Blueprint: College. “We also know we have to reach these parents and families before high school, and even before middle school.”

While parents participate in the workshops, children attend “College Camp,” led by Ohio State undergraduate students. Children take part in age-appropriate activities including role-playing, learning about careers, and designing study spaces.

Involving current college students to lead “College Camp” is important because the younger students see the Ohio State students as role models. College students are not only ambassadors for higher education, they can also answer questions that are important to young students, like “what do you eat in college?”

Blueprint: College is one of several partnerships between Ohio State and Columbus City Schools. The partnerships include tutoring, writing workshops, CCS Baseball Day, adopt-a-school programs and dozens of others.

Diane Ging, supervisor of Higher Education Partnerships at Columbus City Schools, says the parents and students will benefit from Blueprint: College.

“Because of these workshops, these parents now know the vocabulary for higher education. They know to encourage their students to take the rigorous courses. They know that by 8th grade they'll have to select challenging math classes and foreign languages.”

Interest in the pilot program was so high that organizers hope to expand it next year.