Getting to the Goal

In the next decade, 90% of all jobs will require education beyond high school, yet only 25% of the population earns a four-year college degree. Students admitted to quality trade and technical colleges need significant academic preparation in math, science and literacy. The workplace of the future will require academically prepared individuals with postsecondary degrees, whether the employee is a technician or a physician."
— Stan Shoun President, Ranken Technical College

What It Takes to Succeed

Research has identified six components to helping students prepare for and succeed in college.

  1. Setting college as a goal – the first step starts with you!
  2. Rigorous academic preparation, particularly in writing and math.
  3. Attending a high school with a college-going culture.
  4. Understanding how to navigate the process, including FAFSA completion and college applications.
  5. Having access to adequate financial resources.
  6. Having the social, academic and financial support to persist to graduation once enrolled in college.


It's important to note that academic success and the ability to persist through the college access pipeline rely heavily on students developing "social-emotional" skills.  These are skills such as being able to navigate risk and opportunity, goal setting, communication, collaborative problem solving and responsible decision-making, in addition to being able to demonstrate broader attributes like connectedness with their community.

An Action Plan for St. Louis

In 2010-2011, nearly 70 higher education professionals, K-12 educators, guidance counselors, service providers, business leaders and funders came together to develop a community-focused plan to increase the proportion of adults with a college degree to 50% by 2020.

The St. Louis region’s community plan includes 11 strategies organized around the  components that research shows are critical to helping low-income and first-generation students succeed in completing a post-secondary education. The executive summary outlines the strategies.

Turning Planning into Action

The St. Louis region has already made progress on its plan to increase degree completion for first-generation and low-income students:

  • Building community awareness of the importance of degree completion through the 2009 publication of St. Louis’ first‐ever report card on how the St. Louis region is faring in preparing low‐income students for postsecondary success and degree completion, and the 2012 publication of a follow-up report;
  • Creation of  Scholarship Central to help students and families work to address barriers of affordability;
  • Convening Lunch & Learn peer exchanges for college access staff working in schools, Professional Development Institute workshop series connecting theory to practice; and Learning Circles where professionals can strategize response to problems of practice;
  • Holding of the Show Me the Way Institute in July 2012, where leadership teams from seven area school districts developed action plans to improve postsecondary success for their students, as well as follow up coaching and support for some of the plans; 
  • Advocating for need-based financial aid;
  • Opening the St. Louis Graduates High School to College Center in Summer 2013 to assist students with the critical transition from high school to college.