Virginia College Access Resource Study

Congratulations to Alexis Goode for being Partnership for the Future’s recipient of the College Access Scholarship in the amount of $1,029!  This scholarship made possible through the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Virginia 529, Partnership for the Future, and the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium.



Pictured left to right: Paula Robinson (SCHEV), Charleita Richardson (Partnership for the Future), Alexis Goode (Scholarship Recipient), Kathleen Daly (MERC)



The Virginia College Access Resource Study is a major research effort designed to learn about college access organizations throughout the state of Virginia. The study focuses on college access services and resources for students in K-12 other than those offered by elementary and secondary schools, and it will update and build upon similar research conducted in 2008-2009. The research is commissioned by SCHEV and supported by Virginia529.

The goals of the present study are to:

  • Carry out a census-style survey of identified provider organizations to understand the different types of services and resources they offer and the populations they serve;
  • Identify school divisions that show relatively high need for college access services and resources;
  • Consider the match between school divisions’ level of college access need and the types and extent of resources and services available;
  • Produce a comprehensive directory of Virginia college access provider organizations.

Results of the study will be useful at several different levels. First, the study will provide data to help agencies make funding decisions and will help policymakers understand the challenges faced by college access providers. In addition, the results should be valuable as a planning and resource-allocation tool for access providers themselves; the study will help to identify service gaps as well opportunities for collaboration, efficiency, and/or resource-sharing. Finally, the study will serve as a guide to Virginia college access resources for students, families, and schools.

There are several components to the research. The first component, undertaken in fall 2015, consisted of a review of progress on six main recommendations to access providers that emerged from the 2009 research. A small qualitative study was conducted with seven experts embedded in the field of college access; the report is available here.

A further component of the study employed secondary data analysis to assess levels of need for college access resources within school divisions, on the basis of each division’s postsecondary enrollment and degree of economic disadvantage. One product of this part of the research will be a listing of school divisions characterized by high need for college access resources, as well as a listing of divisions with slightly lower but still high levels of need (“recognized need”).

The third part of the study uses an online survey to learn about the distribution of college access resources across school divisions. The first step is to identify as many college access providers as possible and to identify a knowledgeable contact at each who can respond to survey questions about the programs offered. Identified access providers are then invited to participate in the survey, to provide data on the nature of their work and activities, populations served, and the geographic reach of their services.

Finally, the survey will be followed by a small number of qualitative interviews that will provide further insight into the nature of the work done by specific types of college access providers, and the challenges they confront.

Preliminary results will be presented at the Virginia College Access Network (VCAN) conference in November-December 2016, and the full report will be available in early 2017.

Further information on the study can be found here.

Research Team
Amy Corning – Principal Investigator, MERC, VCU
Kathleen Daly – Graduate Research Assistant, VCU
Jesse Senechal – Research Advisor, MERC, VCU

Advisory Committee
Nathan Alleman – Associate Professor, Higher Education Studies, Baylor University
Paula Craw – Director, Outreach and Financial Literacy, Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC)
Paula Robinson – Assistant Director of Academic Affairs, State Council for Higher Education of Virginia
Sybil Halloran – Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management, Virginia Commonwealth University
Bettsy Heggie – CEO, Great Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP)
Scott Kemp – Director, High School Career Coach Program, Virginia Community College System (VCCS)
Beth Miller – Director of Scholarships and Education Outreach, Virginia529 College Savings Plan
Barry Simmons – President, Virginia College Access Network, President, Project Discovery of Virginia

Check out our episode of Abstract featuring members of the College Access study team!

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