July 18, 2019
Boston Opportunity Agenda Gets $150K to Halt College 'Stop-Outs'

January 31, 2019 — The Boston Opportunity Agenda, a public-private partnership comprised of The Boston Foundation, Barr Foundation, Catholic Charities, and other nonprofits and the City of Boston that works to ensure all Boston children and youth are prepared to succeed in college, received $149,964 to research challenges facing college “stop-outs,” students who withdraw from college before receiving their degrees.

The funding, announced earlier this week by The Boston Foundation, was provided by StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to bring communities together around data to make decisions and improve results for kids.

“The unfortunate truth is that today, if a student unenrolls from postsecondary education for any reason, it’s very likely that they won’t come back,” said Kristin McSwain, executive director of Boston Opportunity Agenda (BOA). “Understanding what’s driving students to stop out and developing ways to bring them back or make it possible for them not to leave in the first place could have a major impact on college persistence and completion.”

Working in partnership with the Success Boston college completion initiative, researchers will use quantitative research, outreach and focus groups with students to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the reasons why students “stop out,” craft solutions that reduce the number of students taking time off, and create better opportunities for students who have left school to return and complete their studies.

The grant award is part of StriveTogether’s Cradle to Career Community Challenge, which seeks to create local change to enable economic mobility. The program’s goal is to strengthen and align the many systems, such as education, employment, health, and housing, that shape opportunity for children and families in America.

Now in its ninth year, BOA believe that "by combining our resources, expertise and influence around a single agenda, we will have a greater impact on Boston’s cradle-to-career educational pipeline." It is governed the CEOs of each member organization.

In its annual report, issued last February, McSwain and BOA board chair Rev. Ray Hammond noted that in Boston a postsecondary credential is crucial to full participation in the knowledge economy and entry into the middle class.

"Over the past eight years, we have made progress on almost every metric of the education pipeline, but we still see large achievement gaps throughout the entire K-12 system," they wrote. "Additionally, only 51% of our students are achieving a postsecondary credential...[and] that many Boston students, particularly low-income students of color, fail to achieve a postsecondary degree because they lack the necessary preparation."

BOA partners include The Angell Foundation, Archdiocese of Boston, Barr Foundation, The Beal Companies, LLP, City of Boston, Boston Charter Public Schools, The Boston Foundation, Focus on Children-Boston Public Schools, Catholic Charities, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Robert & Myra Kraft Family Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Newprofit, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

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