Challenging College Decisions for Greenwich High School AVID

AVID Students Celebrate and collect gifts from the Greenwich Alliance. Photo added

By Julie Faryniarz

May 1 is an important date for high school students heading to college. It’s the day students across the country pay their deposit to the college they plan to attend in the fall. There are so many factors that come into play when making this momentous decision. At the Greenwich Alliance for Education, we pay close attention to both the collegiate process and the factors that influence enrollment choices for GHS AVID seniors. We’ve been doing it since 2013, when the first sixteen AVID graduates crossed the stage under the tutelage of Missy Brown.

Both sections of the Class of 2022 are taught by Ms. Brown and Ms. Bittman. This year there will be 37 graduates – (10 male, 26 female and 1 non-binary) and 100% have been accepted to college. These teachers, along with Mara Subach (GHS AVID Site Coordinator) and Judith Nedell (GPS AVID District Manager) spent many months helping students write college lists, write essays, submit FAFSA , then when college acceptances finally arrive, dive deep into financial aid (scholarships and loans) to fully understand the cost of attending one school versus another. And that can be very difficult.

Many AVID students want or need to stay in the area for their college education for financial reasons and there are not enough affordable local options. Financial aid programs seem to stay the same, even though tuition fees continue to rise. Families often have fewer resources to pay for college, due to COVID, inflation, and various other factors.

Ms. Brown writes: “It looks like a systemic failure of higher education in the United States. I don’t know what the Alliance can do about it, but I thought I’d throw it in as a discussion topic anyway. How is it that as we “level the academic playing field” and “close the achievement gap” with a program like AVID, it still seems like the only kids who can pursue their college dreams are those who are able to pay for it?” This reality applies to many high school graduates and is not specific to AVID graduates.

While there are challenges and tough decisions to be made, there is also a lot of good news for our AVID graduates. As mentioned earlier, 100% of the AVID class of 2022 have been accepted into the university. College acceptances have been at or near this level for AVID students since the program launched in 2013. According to AVID.org, “AVID programs in all high school settings are producing college-ready students at rates that exceed by far the national benchmarks”. In 2021, senior data from Greenwich High School reported 91% college enrollment.

Next fall, AVIDS Class of 2022 students will attend Emory, Lehigh, Connecticut College, George Washington, and Providence College, as these schools either met all-needs or offered substantial renewable scholarships reducing the cost of attendance to a more realistic and affordable level. UCONN Stamford offers generous supports and makes the decision to stay close to home easier for students. In recent years, some students have started at Stamford and later transferred to UCONN Storrs as they and their families have become more comfortable with the university experience. Mercy and Manhattanville Colleges also offered generous student packages this year.

AVID teachers and guidance counselors encourage students to write appeal letters for increased financial aid. Most of the time, the school will offer a nominal add-on to the aid package – perhaps $1-3,000 out of a $20,000 difference. Recently, a very excited AVID student was offered an additional $13,000 renewable scholarship after Fordham read her appeal letter.

The Greenwich Alliance AVID SUCCESS offers many programs for AVID high school students to extend what AVID teachers do in the classroom, including good money habits, mentorship, and career jobs and tools.

AVID SUCCESS Mentor Nancy Kail writes about her experience with Kandi, her mentee,
“It was so rewarding to talk to my mentee about her decision to commit to college on May 1. We’ve been working on this day for a year and a half. During our time together, I’ve helped her leverage the existing guidance resources at GHS, I encouraged her to get a job and save money for college She has an Educate & Prosper College Savings Account at Members Credit Union and will receive her full match from $500 from the Greenwich Alliance because she saved $2,000!I’ve seen her become more confident and develop her skills as a self-advocate.She’s already in touch with her college financial aid office and asks important questions. I’m so excited to help her navigate her college journey.

Congratulations to the AVID Class of 2022! We look forward to celebrating with you and your families at the annual AVID Graduation Celebration and your transition to AVID Alumni status where the Alliance will continue to support you through college and beyond!

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