This state pays for college success coaches to help student loan borrowers



TThis week, approximately 1,500 Minnesota college students will begin classes with an additional resource: Success Coaches. In five years partnership between the non-profit organization InsideTrack and the Minnesota Higher Education AuthorityFor the first time, all public student loan borrowers will have access to free one-on-one advice.

InsideTrack coaches, many of whom are former social workers and teachers, will act as virtual mentors throughout the school year. They will support students in removing barriers to college graduation – developing plans for everything from employment and car repair funding to educating professors about academic or mental health needs.

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“We know that many problems have worsened for students in this particular period. We want coaching to help students develop critical, non-academic skills to pursue a degree, ”said Dennis Olson, Commissioner for the Minnesota Higher Education Administration, citing time management and the ability to balance study with family responsibilities.

“When we are on the other side of this pandemic, during the economic recovery, we know that we will need students to acquire these skills in the future.”

The partnership takes place at a time when students across the country withdrawal from institutions and changing their school enrollment plans at a pace that has intensified due to the pandemic.

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With sustainability in mind, the nonprofit will also train government officials on how to use their mentoring and success model. In two to three years, the Minnesota Higher Education Administration hopes to launch and expand an internal coaching program to support not only first-time borrowers, but those who may be closer to graduation or re-enrolled several years after their initial training. loan.

Olson said the coaching initiative will help the state achieve its educational goal 70 percent of the state’s population between the ages of 25 and 44 who have received any level of higher education or certification by 2025. Minnesota faces gaps in educational opportunities based on race and income.

State estimates for 2020 show that nearly 69 percent of Minnesota whites have graduated, while 37 percent of Minnesota blacks and 28 percent of Hispanic / Latino adults have done so.

Minnesota’s higher education institutions have offered financial advice and resources for first-generation students to their students for years, but “we wanted more,” Olson told The 74.

“This is not just another form of student loan counseling, we wanted students to truly have access to state-level tutors for successful learning. It is important for a government agency to lead these efforts and provide services. We want students to have the opportunity to achieve their goals to make sure they understand how to overcome all the obstacles they may face, ”he said.

In the 2021-22 school year, $ 25,000 in emergency funds will also be made available to students participating in the InsideTrack partnership who face urgent circumstances that could derail their college careers, such as car breakdowns, childcare needs, or food insecurity. … This funding is in addition to recently increased government emergency funds provided to institutions directly

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While InsideTrack also supports Indiana by providing career coaching to residents, the scope and scale of its work in Minnesota is a first for the organization, which was founded in 2001. Historically, they have had direct relationships with institutions, including California state universities.

“There are 100 things going on in educational institutions that they try to prioritize every day for their students. It can be tricky to ask, for example, student progress towards graduation versus something like student safety, ”said Ruth Bower White, president of InsideTrack. “[State-level partnerships] it is a way for us to access students and prioritize this assistance without the need for an individual institution to make that decision. ”

InsideTrack coaches walk with students in the Focus Wheel to understand their day-to-day needs and what plans should be developed to stay on track for graduation. Some topical areas are commitment management, mental and physical health, financial security, and motivation or belief in completion.

According to Bauer White, mental health was InsideTrack’s most common focus nationally this year. The organization has developed a Crisis Response Team that Minnesota college students can turn to for additional resources and support.

Quantitative and qualitative data will be regularly reported to the Minnesota institution of higher education, including those areas that students most frequently refer to along with their coaches.

“This is something we can do in Minnesota that cannot be done if you don’t have daily contact with students,” said Bower White.

The impact of the program will be assessed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, who will compare the performance of 1,500 randomly selected students who received a loan with the performance of first-time borrowers in a control group of similar size who did not receive coaching.

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“[Data] will help communicate specific requests, legislative initiatives and priorities, ”said Thomas Sanford, Assistant Commissioner for Operations, Higher Education Division. “This is a feedback loop that we can use to support all of Minnesota.”

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