Only about half of college-eligible students at Fresno Unified actually applied to the adequate number of schools they could get into last year. The district announced a new initiative on Tuesday that aims to not only get more students to apply to college, but to get those already applying to put in more applications across the state.
Starting this week, Fresno Unified seniors will receive specialized packets that outline what colleges they are eligible to apply to, based on their academic profiles. In addition to matching students to institutions based on their academic performance, the new information will help connect families to financial aid services and other resources.
“While this is not a guarantee of acceptance, we do know acceptance will not be a reality if you don’t at least apply,” Superintendent Michael Hanson said at a news conference at Fresno High. “This doesn’t mean students should not apply to colleges that fit their best interests. We’re not trying to force students anywhere. We’re working to ensure students apply to the greatest number of post-secondary choices from the widest array of options.”
An opportunity doesn’t exist if you aren’t aware of it.
Michelle Siquerios, the Campaign for College Opportunity
While 83 percent of Fresno Unified students graduate from high school, only about 48 percent of students are completing A-G requirements, which are courses required to get into college. The new initiative is part of the district’s I Am Ready campaign, which launched earlier this year and aims to graduate 100 percent of students.
Taryn Ishida, executive director of Californians for Justice, said the program will help close “the belief gap” – the difference between students who believe they can succeed, and those who don’t.
“I think what this is really about is making sure all of our young people know what options are available to them so they can truly meet their full potential,” Ishida said. “Our young people face a lot of unequal expectations based on who they are, their race, their ZIP code. This package symbolizes a belief here in Fresno that every student is ready and has options.”
Our young people face a lot of unequal expectations based on who they are, their race, their ZIP code.
Taryn Ishida, executive director of Californians for Justice
Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, said Fresno Unified’s program will help give first-generation college students more opportunities. Applying to college is especially stressful for students whose parents did not go through the application process themselves, she said.
Siqueiros was the first of her family to attend college, and said her mom – who received a sixth-grade education – was not able to help her select the best schools when she was young.
“She certainly couldn’t help me fill out any applications, and it was only because people believed I was ready that I ended up going to college. It’s the only reason I didn’t have to work hunched over a sewing machine like my mom did,” she said said. “An opportunity doesn’t exist if you aren’t aware of it.”
Fresno Unified is partnering with Fresno State, UC Merced, State Center Community College District and others as part of the program.