More people from lower-income backgrounds may be going to college, but they continue to drop out at higher rates than their higher-income peers. They also struggle to manage both work and academics and face enormous levels of student-loan debt whether they graduate or not.

One problem is that educators and policymakers have been focused only on access – getting students into college – rather than on success, or what happens to them once they’re there. How can we ensure that more people, especially those from lower-income backgrounds and disadvantaged groups, not only get into college but thrive once they are there, and graduate with minimal (or no) debt?

In this episode of Minds Worth Meeting, we speak with Melissa Fries, executive director of the College & Alumni Program (CAP) at the Making Waves Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports students of the Making Waves Academy charter school. Serving the underprivileged students of the Richmond, California area, Making Waves emphasizes long-term college planning for students as early as fifth grade, providing financial education and career advice in addition to the basics of a K-12 curriculum. Once students go on to college, the CAP program maintains continuous communication and support, ensuring that the mission of student success does not end with their acceptance letter at the age of 18.

Fries reveals how Making Waves and its CAP program have pioneered a new approach to education that can be replicated, and how it has demonstrated success in promoting not just college enrollment but graduation and career success for underprivileged young people. As we struggle to address issues like inequality, lack of social mobility and the skills gap at the national and global levels, a solution may be found in a local organization – and with leaders like Melissa Fries.

For more information on the Making Waves CAP program visit:

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