The College Success Initiative (CSI) was launched in 2009 as a response to the alarming national statistics about college success for low-income students. According to a 2008 report by the Pell Institute, low-income, first-generation college students are nearly four times more likely to leave college after their first year. Within six years of entering college, only 11% earned a degree compared with 55% of their more advantaged peers.

In a 2014 report by The Postsecondary National Policy Institute, first-generation undergraduate students who are predominantly non-white and from low income backgrounds, face a myriad of financial, academic and social barriers to entering and completing college as the first in their families to navigate college admissions, financial aid, and postsecondary coursework. Research has found significant differences in enrollment, degree attainment and finances between students whose parents have a bachelor’s degree or higher and students whose parents have little or no college experience. To combat these barriers, CSI goes beyond the initial college admission process to ensure Steps to Success students receive the support they need to earn a degree and pursue successful careers.

Today, the CSI team works with 80 Steps to Success college students at institutions all across the country. In addition to career and life-skills programming, the program offers one-on-one personal, academic, and financial advising sessions for all of the students we serve. Beginning in the fall semester, CSI advisors visit all CSI students within a 120-mile radius on campus at least 3 times per semester. Students outside the radius have Skype or FaceTime meetings with their advisor. Campus visits offer personal, academic, and financial aid support. Advisors build strong relationships with the students, becoming accessible mentors and resources for college success and completion.

Even with all of this positivity to report, we are proudest of the fact that 97% of our CSI students graduate college in 4-6 years - over eight times the national average for low-income, first-generation students!

Please check out this really cool video that tells the touching story of CSI student Brittany Buckley!

A huge thanks to the wonderful sponsors who help make this program possible!