Program Helps Low-Income Students Reach College

By Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like most high school seniors, Kyila Fears is eager to finish up and move on. In her family, college is not an option; it’s mandatory.

“My mom instilled in me the value in education. She’s always made sure I knew I was going to college,” she said. “My goal is to either study theatre or anthropology.”

But Fears knew she needed help achieving that goal.

“I wanted to know how I was going to pay for college and how I was going to get into college.”

She got connected with Tyson Morgan, the Admission Possible coach at Humboldt Senior High. Morgan helped her practice for the ACT. She brought her score up from an 11 to a 20.

Morgan also helped Fears figure out what schools would be a good fit, and how to apply for financial aid and scholarships.

“She has a lot of drive. For me, it was a matter of giving her concrete ways to go about achieving what she wants,” said Morgan.

Coaches like Tyson are spread out at high schools throughout the Twin Cities. In total, Admission Possible is currently working with 1,400 students from low income families.

The program was founded by Jim McCorkell, who says he grew up in a low-income family.

“My parents didn’t finish high school let alone get to college,” said McCorkell.

McCorkell says his brothers and sisters paved the way for him. He was finishing up grad school at Harvard when the idea popped into his head.

“I kind of always knew I wanted to be a do-gooder. I went to graduate school knowing I wanted to do something to help the world,” he said.

He wanted to help create opportunity for other students. Since the program started 10 years ago, Admission Possible has helped more than 3,000 students get to college. McCorkell believes they can help more, many more.

“We think there are 200,000 kids who could be going to college from low income backgrounds who aren’t, and that’s an enormous amount of potential for our country and for those students.”

For Fears, the question is no longer how she’ll get into school it’s where will she go to school. She’s been admitted to Loyola University in New Orleans, Pace University in New York, and St. Cloud State.

The soon to be high school graduate is excited about her future, and so is her mother.

“My mom, she didn’t get to finish school. I’m going to go to school and make her proud.”

The Admission Possible program is in the process of expanding into another state in addition to Minnesota and Wisconsin. The possible sites include Chicago, Omaha, and Portland, Ore.

The program is actively looking for new students to enroll.

More from Holly Wagner
  • Tyler

    I’m waiting for the program that helps us that work two jobs just to afford graduate school (with a 3.89 GPA mind you) at full price to come out.

    “Need based aid” is just another way of saying “minority based aid.”

    • JB

      I disagree with you completely, Tyler. Need-based aid can apply to anyone. I think your prejudices are showing just a little. :(

      • Tyler

        How come it doesn’t apply to me then? I need it just as bad as anyone. I have to work two jobs at a combined 56 hours a week just to pay full price. I don’t even live at home – I rent a single bedroom with a family and still manage to make all my bills. My only mistake wasn’t being born black or asian. If I was, I’d get all aid on the first attempt without even trying to run the same GPA.

        I deserve it more than they do, sorry to say. I work 10x harder and pay cash for it all. My parents don’t help me out (still live in FL while I am here) and I have been on my own since 18 and paying my own way ever since. I am 20 now.

        • JB

          I have to commend you for working hard and being dedicated. That is an accomplishment you can be proud of. Paying your own way is a lot of work.

          What I mean by saying need-based aid can apply to anyone, though, is that you don’t have to be a minority to be financially challenged. People can be hard-working and still not have a lot of money. I know people who work two or three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads, and they don’t have a lot of money They drive beater cars. They struggle to make it. It doesn’t make them any more worthy or less worthy than the next person. I think you might resent having to work that much when you think that they are just sitting on their butts getting by without working at all. You’re assuming that based on, well, I don’t know what…

          But if you’re saying that you work 10x harder, but you don’t know the specific circumstances of the people who are qualifying for the assistance – not financial, but informational assistance, mind you – you are falling back on your prejudices when you make that judgment call. That’s all I’m saying.

        • tc

          Did you fill out the FAFSA? You may qualify for a dependency override if your parents don’t support you in any way. Ask your school’s financial aid office for more information. Federal financial aid (Pell grants, Stafford loans, etc) don’t depend on race or GPA, just financial situation. These students are not taking your financial aid, and there’s still time to apply for aid for next year.

          • Tyler

            I did and checked into that. My parents have to be factored in until they die or I turn 24 – there is no way around that. I fill out that damn FAFSA and don’t qualify for a dime.

            • tc

              The FAFSA is federal, and it’s not competitive–if you qualify according to the standards the govt has set, you qualify, period. Again, these students are not taking money that could have gone to you–if you met the income standards of the FAFSA, you would have been awarded grants/federal loans as well. Plenty of white kids get federal financial aid–plenty of black kids (and Latino and Asian) don’t. It’s based on income and assets.

              If your parents make a lot of money but have chosen not to use it to help you with your education, that certainly makes things tougher for you, since the government does expect families to take a part in paying for their kids’ eduction if they can afford to do so. It sounds like you might want to take this up with your parents or your senator/representative.

              • Tyler

                Instead of “estimated family contribution” they should calculate “ACTUAL family contribution” and base their numbers off of that.

        • John

          Need based aid doesn’t apply to Grad School, only for your bachelors. Just because you’re ticked that your parents won’t help you pay for your bills, doesn’t mean that need based aid isn’t necessary. Many people would have no chance at going to a four year college without their need based aid. Before you go and spout your ignorance at the expense of others, try proving that you’re a grad student and do some research first.

  • Kari

    I too do not understand the “entitlement” programs. This program is so biased to only work for one side of our society. I work 50 hours a week just to be able to pay for college. College should be affordable for EVERYONE, not just minorities. This is so tiring!

  • chelsie

    they dont pay for them to go they just show them how to get there

  • JB

    If her mother doesn’t have a high school education, she is very aware of the value of that diploma because of how hard she has had to work to provide for her daughter. If I were in her position, I would want to do everything I could to make sure my kids got an education so they didn’t have to struggle the same way. Geez…a little less judgment, please, people.

    It’s not like they’re giving them a free ride on their tuition and not you. They’re giving them INFORMATION about how it all works, all the inside info that they wouldn’t know if no one in their family has gone to college.

    I am not a minority, but I qualified for TRiO, a program that does the very same thing for low-income, first-generation college students. What I learned there was invaluable! I’m self-sufficient now, and I know what my kids need to do to get into and succeed at college. I can help them, as it should be. But if I wouldn’t have learned it, how could I teach my kids?

  • AJ

    That’s the difference between an Urban education and a sub-urban education. She didn’t have the same learning opportunity, as someone who lives in a different area of MN.

  • cheryl

    We have Admission Possible at our high school in St. Louis Park. It is not a program just for minorities. If you you meet a GPA threshold and are low income – you may qualify- no matter what color you are. We have several white students in the Park program. As stated above-AP hands out no money-that would come from the college you go to, federal and state scholarships and private scholarships.

  • Rick

    Everyone’s situation is different. Just because someone is not just like you does not make them a “low lifer.” How rude. Get a grip, dude.

  • simmer down, simmer down


blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live