Last year, Higher Ed Hero put the spotlight on the I’m First project, started by the nonprofit Center for Student Opportunity, which helps first-generation students succeed in college. In an update to that story, I’m First is now partnering with Chegg Inc. (CHGG) to offer free college counseling for up to 10,000 first-generation, low-income students. This partnership was announced in a September 16, 2014 press release, which covered the launch of a new, live, online college counseling platform that “democratizes the college counseling industry by making what has been for many students prohibitively expensive available to any student, anywhere, at a time that works for them.” This new platform and their partnership with I’m First is part of an effort to disrupt the traditional process of student counseling in higher education with the potential to change how students prepare for college.
Chegg Inc.’s goal seeks to solve a problem many prospective students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, face today. According to the American School Counselor Association, the ratio of high school students to school counselors in America’s public high schools is about 471 to 1 on average, and, according to the California Department of Education, the ratio of students per counselor averages 945 to 1 in California. Many school counselors have to do detailed work to align a student’s needs with the right university. Some counseling packages can cost upwards of $5,000, making them only accessible to more affluent students. Chegg’s platform, which utilizes their InstaEDU on-demand technology and network of counselors from across the country, is being offered at $24 in the launch phase. This will give students from lower-income families access to expert counselors such as alumni of the College Advising Corps, professionals with expertise as private college counselors and college admissions officers at top universities.
The partnership with I’m First offers the first 10,000 students signed up with I’m First two free hours with their new counseling platform. To qualify for the program, students must be first-generation and from a low-income background. The I’m First project has already seen significant support made available to underprivileged college students. The idea behind the program is that first-generation students often do not have the familiarity with higher education to navigate the many institutions, programs, scholarships etc. that will help them throughout their college careers. I’m First seeks to put those students in contact with resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In addition, it allows the student to benefit from the power of community and social sharing to allow current first-generation students to share their knowledge and experience with high school students looking to enter college.
Traditional academic counseling leaves many students unable to receive the attention necessary to match them to the university that will meet their needs. This is because of the detail-oriented work necessary to do so. This leaves not only students in bad situation, but universities as well. The better counseling a student receives prior to entering college the higher chance that university will have to retain and graduate the student. Furthermore, providing low-income and first-generation students with opportunities to have the resources to go to college will help with college admissions. This is why the impact of programs that increase student resources for getting into and succeeding at college provides a more positive impact on all of higher education.