McNair Foundation and StudentTracker Help Rural, Low-Income Students Succeed
Building Bridges to a Better Tomorrow with Accurate Data
By Monica Lee, Executive Director, The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation
In 1989, our founders started The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation at East Rutherford High School, where Mr. McNair attended, to help students from Rutherford County Schools prepare for a postsecondary education. The foundation’s programs are offered from elementary through high school in this rural, low-income county in North Carolina, and are aimed at making sure all students are prepared for life after high school.
We offer many programs to help secondary and postsecondary students. For example, the foundation provides an $8,000 scholarship to students, which is split into four, $2,000 payments over four years of college or trade school that is called a ROPE Award for Reaching for One’s Potential for Excellence. Students who meet entry-level, college admissions criteria earn the scholarship. We also have a mentoring program, where every student from 7th to 12th grade has an adult mentor that meets with them and guides them, for life after high school.
What challenge did StudentTracker reveal?
The National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker service revealed that our scholarship students were enrolled, persisted, and completed at almost 80 percent, which is higher than the national average for low-income, rural high schools. But, the college completion rate for all the students involved in our programs was only around 30 percent, which was lower than the national average for low income, rural high schools.
So, we needed to figure out why their completion rate was so low, besides money, and we needed to start targeting those students that were not completing.
How did StudentTracker help the Foundation?
StudentTracker provided a very clear picture about all our graduates’ postsecondary pursuits and success. We can see the effect of our programming, long-term, for our students. StudentTracker narrowed down which students were and were not successful, where those students attended college, and where we needed to target our services. It has really given our organization an evaluation piece that we were missing.
Because of StudentTracker, I got approval and funding from our founders to start the GPS 4 Success program, which stands for Go, Persist and Succeed. The program provides high school graduates with a coach who assists students with college applications, financial aid, career exploration and other challenges during college. StudentTracker showed that we needed the program, who needed the program, and tracked students throughout college.
As former student Emily Sane told me, “The GPS 4 Success program did not just help me prepare myself for college, but it also helped me out a whole lot during my first semester. When I signed up for classes, I did not know what to expect, but having the program behind me helping me along the way actually pushed me to have everything done promptly and correctly.”
What’s next for the foundation?
I want to expand the program now because I know it works, based on our StudentTracker data.
To support our expansion efforts, Rutherford County Schools and the foundation will conduct a pilot research project to further analyze the impact of direct and virtual postsecondary services on student outcomes related to postsecondary persistence and success. Clearinghouse data will be used to report on postsecondary persistence and graduation. I think the data will support our expansion goals for greater success.
Our founders have supported us for more than 30 years. Funders usually give you a three-year grant, or a five-year, or even a 10-year grant, and then they exit. Unfortunately, Mr. McNair passed away in 2018. His wife is still invested, but at this point, we want to find outside funding to expand.
We expect the research project data to help us further show outside funders our successful GPS 4 Success program and the value in supporting our expansion efforts. With StudentTracker, we can show an accurate impact on students’ lives.
We are a rural entity, and there is not much research into college and career programs that are effective in rural areas. Our program and history, with the help of StudentTracker, is an exceptional intervention and model for other rural areas that have limited resources.
McNair Educational Foundation Graduation Data
Discover the numerous ways StudentTracker helps other institutions throughout the country by reviewing other case studies.
“StudentTracker narrowed down which students were and were not successful, where those students attended college, and where we needed to target our services. It has really given our organization an evaluation piece that we were missing.”
Executive Director, The Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation