My friend and former business school classmate, Andrew Balson, left Bain Capital and has dedicated himself to an exciting new program called Match Beyond, which he describes in this email to me:
Great to catch up the other day. I enjoyed the chance to tell you more about Match Beyond and what we are doing to innovate and achieve unprecedented outcomes in higher education. I think that you and I have very similar perspectives regarding our system of higher education--it serves a certain subset of students effectively while failing a vast number of low-income students who lack the financial resources and the flexibility to succeed within the system as it is. Your posts have often been a source of data on the shortcomings of the system for me and my team at Match Beyond. A few stats that only begin to highlight the need for new options:
· Completion rates: 80% of students in the lowest income quartile who enroll in college do not earn a bachelor's degree by age 24. Only 10% of all individuals from low-income backgrounds earn a bachelor's degree by age 25. (Pell Institute study; White House study)
· Inflation: College tuition & fees have risen more than 1000% since 1978 -- in comparison, the consumer price index has only risen 260% (see http://www.matchbeyond.org/college-costs). Among students in the lowest income quartile, the net price of college now represents 84% of annual family income. (National Center for Education Statistics; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Pell Institute study)
· Debt: Among graduating seniors who received a Pell Grant, 88% had student loan debt in 2012, with an average of $31,200 per borrower. (Institute for College Access & Success study)
In the context of these challenges, Match Beyond represents an innovative new approach to empowering low-income students to earn relevant postsecondary degrees--and to leverage these degrees into middle-class careers. We think we can achieve unprecedented completion rates and jobs outcomes--at low-cost.
Match Beyond serves students in Boston who have earned a high school diploma or GED but not a college degree. Many of our students previously enrolled in college and dropped out; others never enrolled. They come from low-income backgrounds and are typically between the ages of 18 and 35. For most of our students, the federal Pell grant will cover the full cost of tuition such that they pay nothing out-of-pocket and incur no debt (and there aren't the typical auxiliary college costs such as books and activity fees).
Our program is comprised of two primary components:
· College Services. Match Beyond provides personal and academic coaching to students who enroll in online Associate's and Bachelor's degree programs through Southern New Hampshire University's College for America (CfA). Coaches help students to solve barriers to success ranging from transportation to childcare to medical needs. Coaches also provide motivation and hold students accountable for their progress. Our college program (online, self-paced, competency-based) is sufficiently flexible to enable students with busy and complicated lives to make regular and substantial progress.
· Job Preparation and Placement. CfA's curriculum is rigorous and job-relevant so students obtain the skills they need for success in the workforce. Match Beyond coaches further help students to prepare for--and to secure--high-quality, full-time employment at graduation. We coach students surrounding job-readiness, job-search strategies, resume development, and interview preparation. We embed into our program training on key skills that students will need to be successful in their careers. As necessary, we help students to obtain "last-mile" credentials, such as licenses or certificates required for particular careers. And, we are building relationships with employers to help place students into quality jobs.
Match Beyond is still very new. Currently, we have 70 students enrolled. We plan to grow to 150 by year's end. So far, the early data are promising. Of the 47 students in our pilot classes, almost all (45) remain enrolled. Four have already earned Associate's degrees and progressed to the Bachelor's degree program. We expect most, if not all, of the remaining students to complete at least their Associate's degrees in the next 18 months and many to continue into the Bachelor's degree program.