Preparing for PACT: How Schools Can Support Two-Year College-Bound Students

Postsecondary ReadinessRISE by 5 Strategies

At RISE, a strong focus on data drives our continuous improvement efforts. In partnership with our core Network schools, we prioritize regularly reviewing postsecondary data to identify student trends and respond to their needs. During our Summer Melt campaign, which assists graduated seniors by sending key text message reminders, a need has been identified to provide timely and targeted support for two-year college-bound students. 

This past summer, nearly 60 percent of two-year college-bound students responded to at least one Summer Melt text message offering support. The most frequent requests were for help with FAFSA completion and registering for classes. 

Two Connecticut-based postsecondary opportunities further underscore the importance of addressing these needs and helping students meet the necessary milestones. 

The PACT (Pledge to Advance Connecticut) program provides debt-free community college by covering the gap between federal and state grants students receive and community college tuition and fees for degree-granting programs. To be eligible for this funding, students must complete several key steps including submitting a completed application, completing the FAFSA, providing their immunization records, and registering for classes by the priority deadline of July 15. 

Additionally, community colleges statewide recently elected to become one community college system; Connecticut State Community College (CT State). This gives students the flexibility to take classes at any of the CT State branches, spanning nearly all counties in Connecticut, from Norwalk to Hartford and New Haven to New London. 

With these invaluable opportunities now available to two-year college-bound students, it is vitally important that schools provide resources and guidance for these students as they work toward completing the steps needed to qualify for PACT funding. Our data shows that as of the midpoint of this academic year, 86 percent of RISE’s four-year college-bound seniors have completed applications, compared to only 54 percent of their two-year college-bound peers. 

Here are some strategies that RISE schools have initiated to address this gap, and which other high schools can employ to support students in preparing for PACT requirements by the state deadline of July 15:

Applications

High schools can partner with community colleges to run on-site application days. This year, many of our Network schools, including Naugatuck, Platt, Maloney, Manchester, East Hartford, and Hartford Public High School, did just that. School counseling teams provided immunization records and transcripts to students, and representatives from CT State were on-site to provide support, empowering students to submit their full applications that day. Building relationships with local CT State branch representatives can also facilitate timely tracking of which students have completed the application and which students have outstanding steps to complete to gain acceptance. 

Financial Aid

Supporting two-year students with early completion of the FAFSA form is key in ensuring their preparedness for PACT eligibility. Targeting this population of students through a task force is an effective way to increase the amount of two-year students completing their FAFSA. Additionally, schools can opt to hold an after-school program in partnership with their local CT State branch to help students with FAFSA completion.

Registration

RISE Network school teams, including those at Naugatuck, Westhill, and Brien McMahon, have employed a strategy of bringing students who have completed their applications to their local community college to register for classes with guided pathway advisors and receive campus tours in the late spring. On the tours, students located key places that would serve as resources for them once they entered college. RISE schools also partner with their local CT State branches to host on-site registration days, where students receive one-on-one support in selecting and registering for classes during the school day. 

Our RISE Network schools have employed creative, yet simple and cost-effective initiatives to help two-year college-bound students complete the milestones necessary to qualify for PACT funding, preparing our students for success on their chosen postsecondary pathway. Providing timely and personalized support, such as these, is key in helping our students achieve success and reach their goals following high school.