Iowa College Aid Coach & Mentoring Model

January is National Mentoring Month and in celebration of that, we are featuring a series of guest blogs from professionals regarding the importance of mentoring. 

Iowa College Aid believes that having a mentor can play an integral role in a student’s present and future successes. Mentoring is much more than a weekly conversation or a few messages throughout the year. It is a personal connection that will form a pathway to professional success. We know that students from low-income backgrounds are “less likely to have family and peer networks that are informed about the college enrollment process” (Arnold, et al, 2008), and without these networks many low-income, college-intending students will never step foot on campus, which is why underserved and first-generation students could benefit the most from these mentoring relationships.

The steps to college can seem extremely steep, which makes early access to a mentor extremely valuable. Over the last couple of years, Iowa College Aid has made tremendous progress in bridging the gaps to college attainment by using coach and mentoring models. In 2017, we implemented the College Access AmeriCorps program, which places college access coaches in Iowa high schools to focus on helping high school students navigate the college-going process. College access coaches work in tandem with high school staff to assist students on a one-to-one basis. In addition, we have created a student leader position, where current high school students act as influencers to their peers. The college access coaches, along with the student leaders, make up a network of student support.

However, we didn’t stop there. The 2019-2020 academic year brought groundbreaking change to the State of Iowa with the Future Ready Iowa Initiatives, specifically with the Last-Dollar Scholarship, that would change the landscape of higher education for Iowans across the State. This state-funded scholarship program, administered by Iowa College Aid, aims to make a dent in the lofty goal that 70 percent of Iowans will hold a postsecondary degree by 2025. The Last-Dollar Scholarship covers any remaining gap between financial aid and tuition and fees for eligible students.

In addition to the scholarship funds, recipients are eligible to receive support from mentors to help them achieve college success. This three-tiered mentoring model includes the Future Ready Iowa Texting Program with access to text with a college access professional, on-campus college success coaches that offer one on one assistance, and the Future Ready Iowa Mentoring Program that connects recipients with a career mentor in their desired field. By taking advantage of these mentoring opportunities, Last-Dollar Scholarship recipients are able to connect with individuals on a personal and professional level, easing their transition from high school to college and eventually, to their career.

We are so excited to see the number of students who have chosen to take advantage of our various support options and understand the long-term value that these services will provide. There is a need for mentoring services when it comes to accessing and succeeding in college, especially for the populations who do not typically have the access to the resources and support to guide them. We believe that all Iowans can achieve an education beyond high school, and by providing resources that remove barriers and pave the way for postsecondary success, 70 percent by 2025 is just the beginning for Iowa.

Elizabeth is a community engagement consultant with Iowa College Aid. She manages the Future Ready Iowa Texting Program that connects high school and college students with college access and success professionals. Elizabeth has years of various higher education experience, and her goal is to assist students in realizing their postsecondary dreams and help remove the barriers that prevent students from pursuing education beyond high school. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa and her Master of Public Administration from Arkansas State University.  

Keyli is a community outreach representative at Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) in Des Moines, Iowa. She has worked in the higher education field for 18 years, in both direct support positions on Iowa college and university campuses and program management at Iowa College Aid. Keyli is a first-generation college student from a small, rural town in NE Iowa and a graduate of Coe College. Throughout her professional career, she has grown a passion for helping people achieve the dream of a college education. She currently manages the College Success AmeriCorps Program, placing AmeriCorps members who provide in-person assistance to recipients of the Future Ready Iowa Last Dollar Scholarship.