United Way education program lowers college access barriers for students


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Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) has partnered with YMCA of Central Florida Achiever Program to launch the “Going to College” texting program, a pilot initiative aimed at increasing college access by providing guidance via text messages throughout the application process. By simply texting a code assigned by HFUW, a student or parent can receive information about registration deadlines, financial aid and other resources relevant to one or multiple schools of interest.

According to research from the White House, “information barriers,” along with income barriers, are major obstacles in making post-secondary education a reality. Studies show that children from less affluent backgrounds, even high-ability students, lack the “road maps” necessary to access college. Making deadlines and properly filling out applications for enrollment and financial aid significantly limit students from going college – especially those who might be the first in their families to ever apply.

Currently, 60 Orange County students in the YMCA of Central Florida Achiever Program are participating in the “Going to College” pilot initiative. They have signed up to receive personalized and automated messages from institutions, including Rollins College, Seminole State College, University of Central Florida and Valencia College.

“Through this network of community-based resources, HFUW hopes to lower barriers preventing students from furthering their education and help make college access a little more feasible,” said Ray Larsen, assistant vice president of Children’s Services. “It’s a daunting process to undertake as a parent, much less as a 17-year-old. This tool will help students and parents chart the course to college acceptance and help them stay on track through deadline reminders.”

Following the proven model of the Florida College Access Network, Central Florida’s program aims to increase the number of students who apply, enroll and persist to earn a degree. Even in its infancy, the program is already proving to be helpful in navigating the application process.

For more information about the Going to College Project, contact Ray Larsen, Assistant Vice President Children’s Services, Heart of Florida United Way at (407) 429-2202 or Ray.Larsen@hfuw.org.

Participating universities and college access codes are listed below in alphabetical order:

BCU2018 – Bethune-Cookman University

FAM2018 – Florida A&M University

FAU2018 – Florida Atlantic University

FGC2018 – Florida Gulf Coast University

FIU2018 – Florida International University

FMU2018 – Florida Memorial University

FSU2018 – Florida State University

RC2018 – Rollins College

SSC2018 – Seminole State College

UCF2018 – University of Central Florida

UF2018 – University of Florida

UNF2018 – University of North Florida

USF2018 – University of South Florida

UWF2018 – University of West Florida

VC2018 – Valencia State College

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