If We Build It, Will They Come? Fielding Dreams of College Access

Katherine Richardson Bruna, Jennifer Farley, Carla A. McNelly, Debra M. Sellers, Roberta Johnson

Abstract


This article describes the ISU 4U Promise, an innovative college access and affordability initiative. Through this early-commitment partnership program between Iowa State University and Des Moines Public Schools, youth from two urban elementary schools are eligible for tuition awards when they enroll as undergraduates at Iowa State University. Drawing on a review of promise programs in the educational scholarly literature, this article identifies what makes the ISU 4U Promise distinctive among promise efforts in terms of contextual antecedents, implementation processes, and potential institutional outcomes. Unique features include its early childhood focus; sole university sponsorship; “wide-net” reach; and collaborative, critical orientation to education and evaluation. With a bidirectional understanding of knowledge and a bivalent orientation to social justice, the ISU 4U Promise is a promising pathway for universities aspiring to update their approach to college access outreach.


Keywords


college access; affordability; promise programs; urban education; university engagement

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