The Future Connect Scholarship Program, which is sponsored by Portland Community College for high school students at risk of not attending college, will launch in Hillsboro in fall 2013 thanks to endorsement from Hillsboro’s City Council.
At the city’s most recent City Council meeting, a vote was approved to earmark $100,000 in city funds to support a two-year pilot program of Future Connect. The program will directly benefit 50 eligible students from any Hillsboro high school who seek a college degree. The city’s grant will be matched with $100,000 from PCC and the PCC Foundation, to be put toward student scholarships that supplement financial aid and provide individualized academic advising, career-guidance classes, access to tutoring, cohort support and personalized coaching.
“Future Connect is an innovative program that invests public and private funds to significantly brighten the future of at-risk high school graduates right here in Hillsboro,” said Birgitte Ryslinge, interim president of the PCC Rock Creek Campus.
“Two out of five Washington County high school graduates of color do not pursue post-secondary education,” she said, while highlighting the disconnect between the state’s goal of 80 percent of Oregonians earning a college-level certificate or degree and the 45 percent of high school graduates who actually pursue higher education.
“We know we must, and we can, do better,” said Ryslinge. “Our region’s economic strength and vitality depends on educating and developing a trained and talented pool of diverse and skilled workers connected to, and engaged with, our community.”
The program will be administered through PCC’s Alternative Programs, with a Future Connect success coach – a personalized academic advisor to help students navigate the college experience – housed at the college’s Rock Creek campus.
Future Connect first launched in 2011 in Portland. With funding from the City of Portland – matched by PCC and the PCC Foundation – the program serves high school students in Multnomah County who have identified as first generation to attend college or are low-income. Future Connect now serves more than 340 Multnomah County students representing 28 schools. Of these students, approximately 90 percent rank as low income, nearly 65 percent are students of color, and 83 percent of Future Connect scholars are the first in their families to attend college.
And beyond PCC, there is a path forward for Future Connect scholars who transfer to four-year colleges or universities: Portland State University offers 25 scholarships for Future Connect transfer students; Lewis and Clark College offers five full tuition scholarships for Future Connect scholars; and 10 scholarships are available to Future Connect students to attend an Oregon university of their choice.
“PCC’s experience with other alternative programs validates the need for support services, as they’ve helped to nearly double the retention, graduation and transfer rates of students,” said Pam Blumenthal, PCC’s director of Alternative Programs, one of which is Future Connect.
“We’ve seen a 70 percent retention rate of Future Connect students from fall term to fall term,” she said, which is significantly higher – approximately 50 percentage points higher – than programs that don’t offer the types of intensive student services featured as part of Future Connect.
“Future Connect helps students learn the language of being a college student,” said Blumenthal.