We have noticed a disparity in the college going rate between our students who qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) and those who do not. In Tennessee we are lucky to have a scholarship program, Tennessee Promise, that provides two years of free community college or technical school to all who apply. This program does not have a GPA or standardized test score requirement. In order to qualify, students simply have to sign up, attend two mandatory meetings, and complete eight hours of community services. There is also a deadline to complete your FAFSA. Thanks to this program, we have been able to offer the possibility of postsecondary education to students who did not think that was an option for them.
In the early fall of 2016, we went into the classroom to speak to all seniors. A major part of our time with them was presenting Tennessee Promise and helping everyone sign up. In October, we also had a College Application Week. During this week, the school counselors set up computers in a large meeting space during lunch periods. All seniors were encouraged to come in and apply to colleges or to scholarships with the help of their school counselors. This same month we also held our FAFSA night. During this night, we invited seniors and their parents to come have a free meal at school and sign up for the FAFSA. In addition to the counselors, we also had professionals from Deloitte join us to help answer questions. Each school counselor kept track of their students who still needed to complete steps to receive the Tennessee Promise application. We met with all of our seniors one-on-one to ensure that we were supporting them in every way. We also called home and sent letters in the mail to keep parents up to date.
During the 2015-16 school, 79% of our FRL students surveyed informed us that they were attending college or technical school after graduation. Our goal was to see that number increase by 3%. By the time our students took their senior survey before graduation in May 2017, 85% of our low income students said that they were attending college or technical school in the fall of 2017.