Essex, Oxford aligned on college importance06 February 2017
The following article appeared in the Plattsburgh Press Republican on February 6, 2017
ESSEX — Oxford University's colleges have scholarship funds available for low-income students.
The problem, however, is recruiting those young people, CFES CEO and President Rick Dalton said.
"It's a not a money issue," he explained. "The hardest part, I think, for well-endowed institutions, is getting everybody on board (to help students get there and succeed)."
Low-income students, Dalton said, "need more support academically, financially, psychologically. It's not just a matter of providing scholarships.
"You have to believe these young people will succeed."
Dalton was in England recently to speak at a symposium at Lady Margaret Hall, one of 38 colleges at the University of Oxford.
In the audience of about 150 were faculty and students from both Oxford and Dublin's Trinity College, along with education leaders from around the United Kingdom.
"Global demographics and economies require that we educate children from all sectors of society," Dalton said in the auditorium at Lady Margaret.
"The great colleges and universities will be defined by how well they do in recruiting and graduating youth from low-income communities."
Founded by Dalton in 1991, CFES has aided about 100,000 students to date, with 25,000 at present supported through a collaboration of schools, businesses and colleges in 30 states and Ireland.
The program, in place at 800 kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools in the United States and 22 in Ireland through CFES's partnership with Trinity College, sees 95 percent of participants enter college, Dalton said.
Many North Country schools, including Keeseville Elementary, Crown Point Central and Plattsburgh City School District, are among those that take advantage of the convenient location of CFES in the Town of Essex.
It's not just about getting kids into college, though, Dalton said.
"From where we sit at CFES, it's all about the right fit."
That might be some kind of certificate, a two-year community college, a four-year public college or a private university, Dalton said.
"Plattsburgh (State) does a terrific job graduating those young people," he offered one example, "whether they are from the North Country or New York City."
In recent years, however, there has been a realization that many low-income students are attending schools below their abilities.
That's called "undermatching," Dalton said.
According to the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, undermatching is defined as "when a student's academic credentials permit them access to a college or university that is more selective than the post-secondery alternative that they actually choose."
"In the United States," Dalton said at Lady Margaret, "at our 270 most selective colleges, only 6 percent of the students are from low-income households, yet the majority of America's young people live at or near the poverty line."
PAYING THE PRICE
Lady Margaret Hall has 10 students enrolled now who come from low-income families, and the aim is to increase that number.
In western Europe and the United States, Dalton said, "the fastest growing youth population is defined by poverty. These metrics speak to inequality and, most troubling, the metrics speak to the talent we are wasting.
"If we don't find a way to include them ... then we all are going to pay the price."
A college education in the increasingly global economy, Dalton said, is more important these days than ever.
While Dalton brought the statistics to England, students from Oxford and Trinity College delivered the most powerful message, through their own stories.
All from low-income backgrounds, he said, "they were charismatic, articulate and totally convincing."
It's vital, Dalton said in his speech, "for colleges and universities to develop and implement partnerships with schools that help large numbers of low-income students move down the path toward higher education."
Businesses, too, play a crucial role in helping programs like CFES achieve their goals.
Those partnerships, Dalton explained, take students to college campuses to see what life is like there.
And they provide mentors who help bring into focus the reality that young people truly can go on to college — by clearing the fog around such challenges as college options, the application process and how to pay for post-secondary education.
"These activities raise aspirations and cultivate pathway knowledge that leads to social and educational uplift," Dalton said in Oxford.
A MILLION MORE
Over the next decade, CFES is committed to helping a million more students ready themselves for college and career.
That translates, Dalton said, to about 150,000 with direct involvement with CFES and others through other institutions and corporations.
And half of the projected million, he said, will be outside of the United States.
CFES uses three core practices — Mentoring; Leadership Through Service; and Pathways to College and Career to help its students "raise aspirations and develop grit, commitment, resilience and other essential skills to advance social and educational uplift," according to the program description.
Dalton's visit to Oxford came through CFES's partnership with Trinity College, Dalton said.
And looking back some years, his organization first connected with Trinity in a serendipitous way.
Dalton, whose wife, Karen, is CFES vice president for development, was visiting Ireland and Googled programs like his — the one at Trinity popped up.
He met with the executive director, and the two programs soon linked.
"Our partnership with Trinity College Dublin has really strengthened Trinity and CFES," Dalton said. "That's what you hope for with partnerships."
The new connection with Oxford — the head of Lady Margaret Hall will be attending CFES's annual summit this spring — is another positive step.
"We realize we need to prepare our young people, whether from Willsboro (or beyond), for a global world," Dalton said. "They will be competing ... with people from all over the world.
"The need is so great," he added. "Education is the ticket out of poverty."