U-M joins coalition promoting access, affordability, success in higher ed


The University of Michigan on Monday joined a diverse coalition of public and private colleges and universities that are coming together to improve the college admission application process for all students.  

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success was formed to develop a free platform of online tools to streamline the experience of planning for and applying to college. The initial iteration of the planning tools will be available to freshmen, sophomores and juniors in high school beginning in January 2016.

In creating this platform, the coalition hopes to recast the college admission process from something that is transactional and limited in time into a more engaged, ongoing and educationally reaffirming experience. Member schools also hope to motivate a stronger college-going mindset among students of all backgrounds, especially those from low-income families or underrepresented groups who have historically had less access to leading colleges and universities.

“The University of Michigan has long been in the forefront of keeping a Michigan education accessible to all qualified students. U-M is one of just a handful of public universities nationally that meets 100 percent of our in-state students’ demonstrated financial need,” says Kedra Ishop, associate vice president for enrollment management. “This new platform has great potential and we want to be in a position to evaluate how it can benefit our future students.”

Coalition members currently include more than 80 public and private universities and colleges across the nation that have made a commitment to make college affordable and accessible and for students to be successful in completing their education. The coalition, which continues to add members, will be working during the next few months to develop tools and processes that are intended to address many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.

Later this year, the coalition will share details about new college planning and application tools that will streamline the admission and financial-aid application processes, and allow students to begin planning for college much earlier in their high school years.

The online tools — which will include a digital portfolio, a collaboration platform, and an application portal — seek to reshape the process of applying to college as the culmination of a student’s development over the course of his or her high school careers, reducing the unfamiliarity of the application and leveling the playing field for all students.

The application will add another option to all the ways that students currently apply for college. Many coalition schools will accept applications through the portal beginning in the summer of 2016, while others are still deciding when and how to use the application feature of the new system.

“U-M is eager to explore the new portfolio, platform and application system to determine how to engage it with our recruitment and application process,” Ishop says.

Research has found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not participate effectively in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid, and often do not get awarded all the financial aid they qualify for. As a result, even the most highly qualified students either do not attend college, attend a college that does not engage their full potential, or do not complete their degrees. Attending a high school with a college-going culture greatly increases students’ college success.

The coalition hopes to address these findings through its free online tools and increased transparency around admissions and financial aid.

“The overall goals of the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success fall right in line with the mission at U-M to expand access to higher education,” Ishop says.

For example, Ishop points to the recently announced HAIL scholarship program that introduced a new approach to identifying and recruiting high-achieving, low-income students in more than 200 Michigan high schools. Communication from U-M to those students specifies that the university will commit to a full-tuition scholarship for four years for those in-state students who apply and are admitted to U-M.

Members of the coalition include a diverse group of public universities that have affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents, and private colleges and universities that provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit. Coalition schools graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years, with many having much higher graduation rates.

“Coalition schools offer students incredible choice in location, size, selectivity and mission, but we all share a commitment that the students we admit can afford to attend and will have a high likelihood of graduating,” said James G. Nondorf, vice president for enrollment at the University of Chicago and leader of the new coalition. “That should give students confidence that college is within their reach, and that they can be successful.

“We hope this effort will ultimately be successful in persuading many more students to aim for college and help ensure that they are prepared to do so.”

The coalition’s online portfolio of college planning tools will be open to high school students starting in January 2016. Additional details about the application process enabled by the platform will be announced before summer of 2016.


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