DENVER — For years, the traditional brick-and-mortar, four year college experience has been pushed on high schoolers as a necessary next step for their lives. But for many, the financial barrier alone can make those dreams seem far-fetched or unrealistic.
“I just think there is a lot of boundaries in the way of traditional pathways,” said Danté Bills, a success coach for the nonprofit AdvanceEDU.
AdvanceEDU connects students to accredited online education collaborators like Southern New Hampshire University, CSU Global or Western Governors University where they can earn a degree. Once students are enrolled, they can access free childcare, technology, career coaching and financial help, such as a Federal Pell Grant.
"I can't tell you how many times I’ve talked to a student who said, ‘I didn’t think college was for me,' or 'I’ve tried college before, it doesn’t work,' or, you know, 'I think it’s going to be better if I just go straight into the workforce, and I can just start working for money.' And then they hear about what we can do here and that you can do both: you can work and go to college at the same time and that you can be supported and college can look differently than what you think," said Vanessa Roman, the head of outreach at AdvanceEDU. She said her job is to make college readily accessible to those who have doubts about furthering their education beyond high school.
"I love that moment where they just see like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can do this!’ That is what I live for. That is what I’m here for!” Roman told Rocky Mountain PBS.