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Learning Network funding supports College and Career Action Network

Brenda Pickett

The College and Career Action Network (CACAN) has received a grant for $171,784 from The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo supporting operational efforts through September 2014.

This is the second operational grant to support LNGK action networks. The Adult Learning Action Network received a grant in November 2013.

CACAN’s goal is to get more students from Kalamazoo County to attend and graduate from college. It focuses particular attention on helping students who are the first generation in their family to attend college, students of color and those from low-income families. CACAN uses the term “college” for any post-high school institution that offers certificates or other credentialed training and prepares students for a career, including two- and four-year academic degrees.

“We think of CACAN as wrapping our community’s collective arms around these students,” says CACAN director Brenda Pickett. “We help them recognize the value of a college education and we offer tools and support to help them succeed there.”

Currently, according to KRESA, 72 percent of Kalamazoo County high school graduates enroll in higher education after graduation. CACAN hopes to push that number to 82 percent by 2017. The network has identified three key measurements that drive college enrollment in Kalamazoo County: students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), those who apply for Michigan’s Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) and ACT scores.

“Research shows that students who complete FAFSA forms are more likely to enroll in college,” says Pickett. “Similarly, ACT scores are a strong predictor of college success.”

CACAN, like each of The Learning Network’s action networks and programs, strives not to duplicate local efforts, but to ensure that existing resources achieve the greatest results by addressing gaps and seizing opportunities.

“Our TIP goal is a good example of this,” says Pickett. “Participation removes a financial barrier, with funding already in place for qualifying students. Yet when asked,98 percent of Kalamazoo County’s eligible students didn’t know they qualified. CACAN works with existing programs and agencies now to ensure that all qualifying county students can take advantage of this amazing opportunity.”

History of CACAN

CACAN began as a Michigan Local College Access Network (MCAN) in 2010. There are currently 51 such organizations throughout the state (known as LCANs). The overall goal of each is the same — more students to and through college, with a particular emphasis on first-generation college families. How that occurs and how success is measured differs with each community.

CACAN continues to receive some state support along with its operational grant from The Learning Network. It also has received additional grants for specific program activities. This approach stretches each dollar contributed, leveraging financial support to achieve an outcome greater than that made possible through any single funder.

“Kalamazoo County is fortunate to have many individuals
and organizations actively working to help high school students
succeed, graduate and then have a positive college experience.
CACAN helps coordinate these collective resources toward a specific and
common goal. Ultimately the students benefit, but so does our community.”

Brenda Pickett | CACAN Convener