Capacity Building

What Works to Increase College Access and Success?

The faster that schools and communities can grow effective college access and success supports, the faster college enrollment and completion rates will rise. Training and professional development are key aspects of NCAN’s services. Resources include conferences, webinars, information on equity and cultural competence, virtual learning communities, and online management tools such as manuals and templates. NCAN also promotes the use of technology to expand program capacity at a reasonable cost.

National Conference. Since its launch in 1995, NCAN’s fall conference has become the country’s premier cross-sector forum about best practices for college access and success. More than 750 individuals gather to exchange strategies, find partners, and accelerate the pace of change for underrepresented students in higher education. The diverse national audience includes representatives from national and community-based nonprofits, colleges and universities, public school districts, charter schools, state agencies, foundations, and research organizations. NCAN members attend at a discounted rate and receive preference for conference session proposals. 

Held during three days in September or October, the NCAN conference offers relevant plenary speakers, dozens of competitively selected workshops, and meaningful networking opportunities. Conference topics include: 

  • Collective Impact and Networks
  • College Access and Readiness for All 
  • Student Success in Higher Education
  • Using Technology to Enhance Student Outcomes
  • Research, Data, Evaluation and Measuring Outcomes
  • Financial Literacy and Financial Aid
  • Policy to Increase College and Career Attainment
  • 21st Century Skills and Workforce Readiness
  • Program Management and Leadership

The conference is well-regarded by attendees: In 2013, 96 percent of survey respondents said the conference met or exceeded their expectations, and 93 percent rated the workshop sessions as "extremely" or "very" useful. 

Spring Training. Each spring, NCAN hosts one-day meetings in several cities around the country to provide intensive learning on an important topic. The meetings are also an opportunity to get an update on the national college access and success landscape and network with organizations in the region. NCAN members can attend these trainings free of charge. 

Success Digest. This free weekly email, exclusively for NCAN members, gives you all the college access and success news you need to know in five minutes or less. Every Monday, the NCAN staff wades through an onslaught of reports, grant announcements, research, and news stories, distilling it into information you can scan quickly and put to use immediately. Nancy Leopold, executive director of College Tracks, says, "I *love* Success Digest, a curated list of information I need from folks I trust."

Webinars. Members enjoy free monthly webinars highlighting best practices and new developments in the field. Examples include an annual update on changes to the FAFSA, strategies to decrease "summer melt," and free resources for SAT and ACT prep. All webinars are archived for members to access at any time. 

Online Communities. To foster peer-to-peer learning throughout the year, NCAN's online learning communities allow members to ask and answer questions, share materials, and connect with others around the country who work in college access and success. NCAN offers three communities for advisors, program leaders, and college access networks. 

Discounted Services. Through a collaborative agreement with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), NCAN members can receive StudentTrackerSM services at a discount of up to 50 percent. NSC data enable college access and success programs to track student postsecondary enrollment and completion, something all programs should do regularly. The enterprise text messaging platform Signal Vine waives the one-time setup fees for NCAN members that sign a one-year contract (a $4,500 to $6,000 savings).

Fee-for-Service Consulting. For more than a decade, NCAN has provided affordable consulting to nonprofits, foundations and corporations, and government agencies about college access and success needs, strategies, and services.

Capacity Building in Houston 2013-2017. Although Houston is the fourth largest U.S. city, it ranks 34th in college attainment, and college completion rates are particularly low for Houston's large and growing Hispanic population. To provide more college access and success support services to students and families, the Houston Endowment has partnered with NCAN to help local nonprofits understand the most promising practices in the field and improve their use of data to inform their programs.