Who Gets to Be in College Readiness Programs?

After a year of distance learning, I returned to Patrick Henry High School this fall as a junior, delighted to be learning in person. 

Junior year of high school is all about preparing for college. Between studying for an adequate ACT score, applying for scholarships and joining enough extracurriculars to confuse the masses, junior year is by far the most demanding year of high school. 

During my first-day orientation, my school held an 11th-grade assembly about college resumes, ACT registration and college readiness programs. 

There, I was introduced to College Possible, an organization dedicated to “mak(ing) college possible for students from low-income backgrounds through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support.” 

College Possible has four eligibility requirements: a 2.0 GPA, an aspiration to attend a four-year institution, an intention to attend all sessions and collaborate with coaches and a low-income qualification. 

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, low income is a title given to families with an “(average) income of about twice the federal poverty threshold to meet their most basic needs.” To be eligible for College Possible, a family of four would have to make less than $53,000 annually. 

That doesn’t include me or many of my classmates: 25 percent of students attending Patrick Henry High School don’t qualify as low income, according to data from the state on free and reduced-priced lunch. 

College readiness programs aren’t just exclusive to low-income students; the same applies to the middle class. The need for College Possible is immensely wanted. However, there is an extensively large gap between low income and the independently wealthy, excluding students in the middle class. 

According to Shawn Crenshaw, an academic counselor at Patrick Henry High School, low-income requirements have become yet another obstacle for students of color. “Income requirements just need to go,” says Crenshaw. “Look at what groups are underrepresented instead of looking at income.” 

2020 Patrick Henry High School graduates Tomi Ijiode and Ayo Olagbaju both applied for College Possible but had different experiences. 

Ijiode applied for College Possible in 2018, but wasn’t accepted due to income requirements. “Just because your parents make a little more doesn’t take away from the fact that you still need that support. We’re all trying to get into college; it’s a difficult process and I feel like people need help.” 

Olagbaju, a former College Possible student, found College Possible to be very beneficial. 

“I know there are a lot of families who are sort of in between and would benefit from the low-income programs, but they also can’t afford to just pay out of pocket,” says Olagbaju. 

Olagbaju and Ijiode are both sophomores at Howard University. 

It’s clear that College Possible and other college readiness programs are deeply needed by many students — not just low-income students. 

Right now, there are empty seats at College Possible awaiting students who desire a higher education. These seats can be filled and students are prepared to succeed, but these programs are not designed for them. All because they aren’t low income, all because they didn’t make the cut. 

ThreeSixty Fall News Team students wrote op-ed stories, then turned them into digital essays, inspired by the #360YouthVoiceChallenge, which is inspired by youth.