♪ good morning. welcome to "viewpoint." i'm pat lawson muse. this is an exciting time of year for high school students, seniors in particular. many seniors and their parents are so excited about getting those college acceptance letters, but they are also trying to figure out how to pay for college. this morning we take a look at two local programs dedicated to helping students make it to college and make it in college. our guests are nancy leopold, executive director of college tracks, rodriguez is president and ceo of the d.c. college assistance program, known as d.c. cap. chad smith is a d.c. cap adviser. welcome all of you. >> thank you. >> to "viewpoint." since d.c. cap started back in 1999 now-of-given out quite a lot of scholars.
talking about? >> we've given out $35 million in scholarships, and we've been very fortunate. we have a lot of support from the community. we've sent about 23,000 students to college, and we have almost 7,200 college graduates now. >> so, d.c. cap grants are given for two and four-year colleges, for vocational -- >> really, what our advisers do is spend a lot of time finding scholarships, financial aid, and then we come in for really our poorest kids and give them awards to pay for books, food, a lot of the costs not covered in traditional scholarships and college aid. >> nancy, college tracks does a lot of the same thing. >> we do. we do. we focus -- we don't give out money in scholarships. what we do is the rest of what d.c. cap does, where we work with kids who are at risk of not getting to or through college and helping them get through the complicated milestones of the admissions and financial aid o
make good decisions while in college so they can graduate. >> chad, you are an adviser, but you're a beneficiary of dc-cap. >> yes. >> tell us your story. >> well, this is my fifth school year with dc-cap. i graduated from high school, went to the university of pittsburgh at greensburg and became an admissions counselor for three years before returning back home. and within a month of coming back to d.c., i heard about this great opportunity to work with dc-cap, and i've been doing this ever since. >> and so, you did dc-cap, and how did it help you? >> it was very helpful, because it helped to really counsel me in what a good fit would be for me. dc-cap's really good at matching students with good fits as far as the school they go to or the type of scholarship opportunities that are available. in fact, my dc-cap adviser, mrs. shelly mitchell, still works at dc-cap, so she's my colleague.
mater. all my teachers are still there, so that's kind of a cool thing that goes full circle. >> arhelia, the college game is really tough these days. and i say game because there are a lot of sets -- a lot of moving around of the pieces on the board. the competition to get in is pretty stiff. tell us about the landscape for the students you're serving, what are the biggest challenges for them getting in? >> it's getting harder to go to college. a lot of -- some of the competition, but a lot of it's financial. the tuition costs are escalating, and not necessarily matching the financial aid. our biggest challenge still to date is money. the good news is there are a lot of different institutions that are available to d.c. kids. and so, you know, right now we have students at over 500 universities around the country. and so, what we are able to do is work with the universities
package, and then more importantly, who have retention programs to help the students once they get in to get out, because it's really a much harder thing to get them out than just to get them in. but there's opportunity. there's opportunity everywhere. >> nancy, so, if a student's considering -- of course, the students who are already in the pipeline, it's a little late for them, but when you're looking to go to college, dreaming about it, planning to go, what are some of the steps that the average high schooler needs to take in order to navigate the waters to figure out exactly what they're getting and to make sure what they're offered matches what they receive? >> it is an incredibly complicated process. and you're absolutely right to call it a game, and the game is really rigged against the students that we serve in that if you don't -- if you're somebody who has people in your family or in your life who have gone to college, you've got a real step up. if you don't, you're not going to even understand the language of the application process, much less necessarily be able
through it. so, the most important thing for students is really to find the counselor or the program who can help and guide them through this process, because there are so many steps. there is figuring out what you want to be when you grow up and matching that to the kinds of colleges you're seeking. they're searching for those colleges, understanding your financial aid safety schools -- which schools you are definitely going to be able to afford -- which other ones are reaches for you, maybe both in terms of academics and financial aid. then the all-important facet, the federal application, the free application for federal student aid without which you cannot get federal aid at all, you cannot get most state aid, and for many colleges, you can't get institutional aid. so, a lot of what we do is making sure our kids are teed up for all of these opportunities, that they meet the critical deadlines so they will have as many options as possible. >> chad, do students come into your office in a panic? >> sometimeou
them to be realistic, but you know, without breaking hearts or, you know, discouraging minds. in my role as a dc-cap adviser, we serve many types of students who have many different types of needs, and we meet them where they are. and so, it's very gratifying for me personally to be able to come back to my own community, and currently, my high school alma mater, to help the culture in washington, d.c. and for many of our families, college access is what helps them break the cycle of poverty. and so, that's a legacy that dc-cap can be really proud of to point to and a legacy it's very proud to be a part of. >> all right, we'll continue the talk right after this break. stay with us. we're going to talk more about college and assistance to get in and to make it. stay with us.
welcome back. this morning we are talking about going to college. and argelia, tell us about your typical student. >> well, our typical students are d.c. students. as you probably well know, the population of d.c., there's a lot of poverty. about 75% are on free or reduced lunch programs. most of them are first generation. so, one of the reasons that dc-cap was established for the way it was, and then we serve everyone. we don't discriminate. we believe that every child, regardless of where they start, should have the opportunity for post-secondary education, because it could make such a difference to their lives and the generations after them. so, we work with everyone. we chase them down the hall, we get them involved. you know, they can't hide from us. we have the centers there, so -- >> whether they want to go or not. >> well, i mean, the thing is, we have to present the opportunities aggressively. >> sure. >> because when you have a child who's
self-esteem or a family support, we spend a lot of time building that. and so, and then getting them through the motions of doing the applications, the fasas, the scholarship applications as well as college, sometimes they just require an extra push. >> yeah. nancy, you serve approximately 1,000 students or so in three schools in montgomery county. >> that's right, three schools, yes. and our students are similar in that they tend to be low to moderate income. many of them are first generation to college. most of them are minority and many of them are immigrants. so, these are all groups that are not going to necessarily have had much experience in college-going, and therefore, will be at risk of not getting there, although they're incredibly fabulous students, just like their more affluent peers. and they're incredible people, you know, with whom it's really an honor for us to work. and we see ourselves as sort of midwives in this process of, yo
know, getting them from where, you know, if you ask our students when they're in tenth grade, do they want to go to college, they all say yes. as they get a little older, they get a little afraid that they maybe won't make it. and you know, that's our job to make sure that they do make it. >> chad, talk a little more about the psychology. there are many kids who start out dreaming, dreaming big, but when the realities of their lives and their own personal expectations, their families situations, the limitations, when all of that comes to bear on a decision about whether going to college is the right decision to make, they can steer kids in one direction or another. >> yeah. when i go into the classrooms, and for example, when i'm speaking to ninth graders, first of all, i tell them how important it is for them to be consistent and disciplined with the grades that they make. so, if they start off strong in ninth grade year, by the time they get to the twelfth grade year and they're consistent in discipline, they have a plethora of options.
well as they hoped throughout the course of their four years in high school, we really emphasize that there is a place for everyone, that there is a college fit. and so, once they realize that, then they become a lot more, you know, relaxed about the process. but also, when it comes to money, we let them know that there's so many different opportunities out there from the d.c. tuition assistance grant to the dc-cap scholar award and other scholarships we partner with to help give to the students. >> and you were telling me duri the break how just a few months in college or maybe one year can make such a big difference in the psychology, in the mind-set of a student who wanted to go but maybe thought they couldn't, couldn't do it. >> right, and especially a student who is the first person from their family to go to college. >> yeah. >> sometimes when i'm talking to the students, i feel like i'm trying to explain fire to a fish, you know. it's like a concept they can't, you know. but as you keep working with them, you have individua
counseling and you have presentations and group counseling. over time, the concept becomes tangible. when you go to school, they come back, they have this different air about them, this essence of dignity that they've achieved something, and you can just sense it in their confidence, and it's a really gratifying feeling. >> argelia, college can help families, such as yours, break the cycle of poverty. >> absolutely. we firmly believe that probably education's the most important investment you can make into a family, into a situation, because even if it's the first student who's going off, and they leave the family behind, their siblings -- there's usually siblings in the house. so, once one student has been able to go, the other ones feel empowered, and particularly the parents in the families feel empowered to let them go. so, once a student is able to go to college, particularly is able to complete it, it completely changes the trajectory of their life and their opportunities. i mean, they have choices, they see careers they never knew about, they meet people they never -- i mean, the world is opened up to them on a college ca
important investment i think we could make is an education. >> oh, yeah. a whole new world, i'm thinking as she's talking, nancy. >> oh, absolutely. we actually spoke with one of our students recently who graduated from university of maryland at college park in computer science, and he's just bought his mother a house. i mean, there's no better way to exemplify what, you know, what college does or how important an economic development issue it really is. you know, you have a relatively affluent -- a very affluent county like montgomery county, but that affluence and that economic prosperity really rests on their college attainment rate. well, with what's going on demographically, you know, with the only growing population being actually hispanic children in montgomery county, and they are hugely at risk of not getting to college, we've got to figure this out, or else, you know, we're really going to be in trouble. most people don't understand that montgomery county has a huge amount of
kids in the school system are on free and reduced meals, which means that there are more poor kids in montgomery county than there are kids in the washington, d.c., school system. so, this is real, and i think we've been riding a wave of great college attainment, but as i say, you know -- and what college tracks does and what dc-cap does is we prove that it can be done, it works. you know, we can get kids to and through college who wouldn't have been able to do so without our help. they deserve to go. they were ready to go, and they just needed the boost. >> all right. we've got to take a quick break and we'll continue right after this. stay with us.
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paying for it, in particular, argelia, how does your program, dc-cap, work? what's the average scholarship and the options for kids? they can stay in the city, they can go to schools around, and of course, outside of this region. >> once a student completes the fasa, the federal aid form, they will come back and they'll say how much expected need, how much is the family expected to contribute. and usually, it's zero because of the income level. and so, there we start find iin scholarships and other financial aid. we work with the institutions to increase the institutional aid as well as work-study. but d.c.'s a unique situation. it's not a state, so unlike maryland or texas, where students have choices of 30 institutions, we have one, which is udc. and really, the ability to give students choices influences their success rate. so, we were able to work with coss
college access act, which funds the d.c. tradition assistance grant program, which helps subsidize the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. so, now, d.c. kids, we have them all over the country at different institutions. they have choice. they have choice. and so, it's sort of leveled the playing field a little bit, but we still -- there's still unmet need, anywhere from between like $7,000 and $15,000, which we cobble together with different scholarships. we spend a lot of time talking to financial aid officers at the school, saying you need to give them more money now, you know you need to give them more money. and so, we piece it together. and then as they get further on in their tenure through college, then they can get loans, they can get student loans in their upper classes. and so, it's -- we piece things together, but we do it making up. >> nancy, getting is one thing, staying in, that's the other part of the equation. >> staying in, that's exactly right. and staying in is
large and complex set of issues. it's everything from making sure that you renew your fasa so that you will -- you'll be able to get financial aid for next year. understanding which of your financial aid expires after the first year, what else might be available. how do you navigate your campus, how do you find allies, how do you find help and support -- >> and culturally. >> and culturally, it's enormous. you know, how do you find your place there and what do you do when you find out all of a sudden that you need a $300 textbook you didn't know that you would need? how do you deal with that? and that's some of the many things that our college success coaches help kids get through. >> all right. we've got to take a break. we'll be right back.
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student or a parent watching right now? >> i would say that no matter what your grades look like, no matter where you come from economically, that there is a place for you on a college campus, and you just have to have the audacity to actually do it and to meet with someone like myself to help you through the process. >> nancy? >> i would say that keeping your grades up through high school makes a huge difference in the options that you will have for college. >> okay. argelia? >> prepare early. start as early as possible as a family. >> how early is that? >> as a student. ideally, really when they're coming up through middle school and junior high. we start kids in high school, so the minimum, ninth grade. start planning how you're going to get to college. start thinking of what kind of college you want to add, what areas you want to major in, and stick to the plan. >> you also say parents need to be aware of bait and switch. what's happening out there? >> what happens is that universities and colleges will often offer very lucrative and
packages for freshman year, and it's a lure. they get the kids on the campus. but then in the subsequent years, sophomore-junior year, it kind of dries up, and so the student is left trying to find, where am i going to get tuition for sophomore year or junior year. and so, one of the things that we think is very, very important when the parents and the students are evaluating is to really look at the history of the school, look at the average financial aid packages they give, starting freshman, sophomore, all the way, so you have some anticipation of what to get ready for. >> nancy, this is graduation week for you. >> it is, it is. well, it's our graduation celebration week. they're not going to graduate for a little while, but yes, we're going to have a big event on april 27th where we celebrate the graduations of both our high school students as they go off to college and our college students as they go off into the world of work. >> now, and chad, dc-cap has a big gala coming up, but you wanted to make another point as well. >> i also wanted tosa
school to school, and it's not so much about how much the school is offering the student but how much the family has to pay out of pocket once all of that is offered. and so, you really have to look at the schools, compare the schools and see what they're offering. >> compare apples and apples. you have a gala. >> it's the d.c. capital stars gala. it's a competition, basically our version of "american idol." we've auditioned kids throughout the city and they go in front of celebrity judges and the audience gets to vote. so go to dccap.org. >> april 26th? >> tuesday, april 26th. >> okay, april 26th. and the time is on the website. >> it's going to be -- it starts at 7:00 p.m., the performance starts, yeah. >> all right. it sounds like a big hill to climb, but thank goodness for people like you who are helping students and their parents climb the hill. thank you. all righty, thank you so much and thank you for being with us on "viewpoint." i'm pat lawson muse.
right now on "news 4 today," a violent start to sunday morning. what we're finding out as police piece together a new crime scene in prince george's county. the man accused of killing a firefighter and wounding another is back at home. why investigators say he's not tak facing charges right now. disaster in ecuador. the damage after an earthquake. >> and get ready for the sun. it will be even nicer for yesterday. good morning, i'm meagan fitzgerald. >> and i'm adam tuss. it is a great day to clean out your garage or work outside. tom kierein