#DegreesNYC Summit Seeks to Put More Students on Path to Success

Attendees from across the education system swapped ideas on how to eliminate barriers to college.
Attendees from across the education system swapped ideas on how to eliminate barriers to college. 
A data wall provided space to share observations.
A data wall provided space to share observations. 

How can we ensure all New Yorkers have an equal shot at academic success beyond high school? That was the question on every mind at the second #DegreesNYC Citywide Summit.

“We started two years ago by engaging the community,” Judith Lorimer of the Goddard Riverside Options Center told attendees. “What we heard is that there’s a huge amount of good work going on but it isn’t coordinated and we haven’t figured out how to create a safety net for young people.

“Today we are here to share our progress and invite you all deeper into the conversation.”

Goddard Riverside founded #DegreesNYC with Young Invincibles, a research and advocacy group focusing on Millennials, and Graduate NYC, a citywide initiative working to double graduations rates at all CUNY colleges. #DegreesNYC is working to create a citywide movement to ensure that students of all backgrounds have an equal shot at completing higher education.

Students in the U.S. face big challenges, including soaring costs. There are additional hurdles for first-generation and low-income students, such as a lack of access to school counseling.

Nationally, a recent study found more than 60 percent of white and Asian students finish college within six years, while about 46 percent of Hispanic students and 38 percent of black students do.

The impacts of race, power and privilege cannot be ignored, said Marissa Martin of Young Invincibles: “Until these realities are tackled and the root causes addressed, post-secondary education will never achieve full equity.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael A. Baston, President of Rockland Community College, emphasized that simply getting students through college is not enough. In today’s high-stakes environment, he said, colleges must help students complete school successfully and launch careers.

“Students today are not simply looking to sit under an apple tree until a new idea falls on their head,” he said. “They have goals. If we are not thoughtful about paths for our young people, we are sending them to an education that builds bridges to nowhere.”

Since the first summit in 2016, five work groups have been meeting to focus on topics ranging from creating inclusive school and community cultures to building a data system. The work groups reported their results at the summit and the day wrapped up with a look at what’s next.

Dr. Roderick L. Jones, executive director of Goddard Riverside, said #DegreesNYC is an important investment in the future — not just for youth, but for all of us.

“Education remains a key pathway to economic self-sufficiency,” he said. “When young people do better, the country does better.”