Monday, October 26, 2009

More Access for More Students—Practicing What We Preach

October 26, 2009 - For those of you who are regular readers of my blog I hope it has become clear that ConnectEDU’s societal mission is to give EVERY student access to – regardless of means – the best opportunity for the best education and career choice possible. Our company and its services were created by and for students, their families and those who serve them. We know how difficult and complex the college and career search process can be. And we know how hard it is to effectively and efficiently navigate that system – whether you’re a teenage student or their parent or their high school counselor. That is why we measure everything we do and every dollar we invest, by one simple question – “how does this help the student?”

This week, we will be melding that philosophy of helping students, their families, and their high school guidance counselors with our proven information technology expertise and first-of-its-kind application management solution, SuperAPP, in order to provide an opportunity for more than 5,000 Detroit Public School students to receive side-by-side assistance with applications and the college process.

As I have also made clear in the past, we are open to working with any organization, institution or application provider so long as the focus is on providing more access to more students, reducing costs and driving efficiency. We will practice what we preach this week when we partner with the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) and many of the leading universities and colleges within the state of Michigan including Michigan State University, Wayne County Community College, Marygrove College, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Saginaw Valley State University, Western Michigan University and Wayne State University. Collectively, ConnectEDU, DPS and these participating colleges from across Michigan will be on-site at 27 Detroit Public high schools, offering resources and advise to students to help them complete their college applications. All high school seniors will participate in the application workshops, utilizing ConnectEDU’s SuperAPP tool which allows students to complete multiple applications at once and submit them online. The goal is to introduce as many students as possible to the college admissions process and help guide them down the educational path that makes the most sense for them.

As we all know, Detroit has been hit hard by the current economic recession and this has, in turn, had a significant impact within the Detroit Public Schools as it relates to budget cuts affecting staffing and resources. We feel that “College Application Week in Detroit Public Schools” is an opportunity to work in conjunction with others that believe, like us, that success in getting to college shouldn’t be determined by where you live, how much money your family has, or how fancy your school is.

We are looking forward to a great week in Detroit and to making an impact in student’s lives and providing some positive momentum for a city and for students who deserve it. Stay tuned for my next post which will provide an update on the the 3 day event.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ConnectEDU Cares Program Active in the Community

October 16, 2009- The ConnectEDU Cares program, an initiative at ConnectEDU designed to improve the physical, mental, and social well-being of our team members while educating and supporting one another on the path to a happier and healthier lifestyle, is making an impact on the local community. In addition to encouraging our team members to help one another, ConnectEDU Cares reaches out to our community to impact those initiatives important to us.

Recently, ConnectEDU team members registered for Hub on Wheels and completed a 50 mile bike ride. On Sunday, September 27th, ConnectEDU’s Andrew Morrison and Erik Peterson participated in the 50 mile bike ride across Boston in the pouring rain to raise over $500 for classroom technology within the Boston Public Schools. And I am told only one flat tire along the way!

Andrew and Erik were among over four thousand riders, and more than four hundred volunteers that came together to raise the most money to date for the Technology Goes Home program, helping Boston Public School students get the technology and skills they need to succeed in today's world.

Technology Goes Home (TGH) has served over 3,500 families through the BPS and community programs during a nine year period. The TGH program, while teaching technology skills to underprivileged families, brings students, parents, and teachers together at school in an atmosphere that fosters trust and community building, particularly between parents and teachers.

Congratulations to Andrew and Erik for continuing ConnectEDU’s mission outside the office to help young people effectively use technology to maximize their college and career potential. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the efforts and accomplishments of ConnectEDU Cares throughout the year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comparing Apples to Oranges

"SuperAPP IS NOT an Application Format, It is an Application Management Solution"

October 13, 2009 - As mentioned in my last post, we are starting to see some really passionate and healthy dialogue taking place related to the college application process and how to improve access for all students. I feel this is a great discussion and a topic worth exploring.

In various communications I have had with people on Twitter, or remarks I have seen on comment boards or in the text of feature articles, it has been implied, or directly stated, that SuperAPP is an application format. (For the purpose of discussion let me also define what I mean by “application format”… Application Format means the format in which the application material must be presented, assembled or transmitted. Meaning that the college must adhere to a particular format of an application… such is the case with the Common Application.) That is just not the case with SuperAPP – SuperAPP IS NOT an application format. It is an Application Management Solution.

SuperAPP is far more comprehensive and was designed for a completely different use then an application format solution — in fact, SuperAPP is designed to work with and integrate into whatever college application format a college chooses, including the Common Application. So whether a college uses the Common Application, a custom application that they have created on their own, the Universal College Application, a CollegeNet application, or any other application format solution, SuperAPP can accommodate.

So does this mean that a student can use SuperAPP to complete a Common Application? Yes, it does. In fact, students using SuperAPP can complete their Common Application for Common Application schools while simultaneously applying to colleges that are not on the Common Application network and use a different application format.

Click on images for more detail

SuperAPP is a smart technology that interprets numerous college application formats, identifies the common characteristics, and then creates a single application for the student to complete based on the colleges that they wish to apply and the commonalities of those various application formats. Then, once the student has completed their single application, SuperAPP de-couples the single application into the original application formats of each college — a true application management solution.

The Common Application requires colleges to adopt their format (but most have supplements which means that they all end up with their own “custom” formats anyway, eliminating the benefits for the student, but who’s counting) in order for them to make the process easier for the student. CDU’s SuperAPP makes the process easier for everyone – student, counselor and college – and nobody has to change their application format.

SuperAPP even goes one step further. Because SuperAPP is deployed through Connect!, and integrated with the high school’s student information system, SuperAPP can pre-populate over 85% of the student’s applications before they even start the process. This is a HUGE time saver for students!

As I have stated before, this is the best way to provide a streamlined process to as many students, counselors and colleges as possible. And, at the end of the day, every student, from every neighborhood across the country is given the best opportunity to achieve their dream of a college education and promising career.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments via Blogger or via Twitter (you can follow me at CraigPowellCDU).

Friday, October 2, 2009

“Common or Elitist” Article Creates A Stir… Allow Me To Clarify A Couple Items

October 2, 2009 - By way of background, Inside Higher Ed recently ran an article titled “Common or Elitist” that discussed concerns about college access as it relates to the application process itself and several of the providers that offer college application solutions. Most notably, the article took focus on the Common Application and challenged the notion that it was for the “common” student, applying to “common” colleges. And as is the joy of working in a marketplace of passionate people that are dedicated to helping students succeed, a very passionate debate has ensued as a result of this article.

I think this ensuing debate is fantastic!… not just because I love a good discussion, but because the discussion shines a light on the fact that, currently, EVERY student does not have access to the tools and resources necessary to maximize their education and career opportunities. Instead, many of the streamlining technologies and “process” components are only available to a subset of the student and/or college population- something that ConnectEDU is dedicated to resolving!

I would also like to clarify some of the implications that the article punched up. Specifically, I would like to clarify the context in which the topic of common vs. elitism was raised as it relates to my comments in the article. Let me start by saying that I agree with those that read the article and drew the conclusion that I was advocating that there shouldn’t be any standards in the admissions process; it certainly reads that way. However, that is not the context in which I made my comments. My comment was the following –

“That because the Common Application restricts its member institutions to only those that conduct a ‘360 Degree Evaluation’ they exclude many institutions that are historically known for their dedication to the college access student population. This would include community colleges as well as open admission institutions. As a result we do not believe that the Common Application meets the needs of most students. If that is what it means to be elitist, then, perhaps that is an accurate conclusion.”

I want to clearly state that I am a firm believer in the need for admissions requirements and standards in the admissions process. But I am also a fervent believer that common solutions must meet the needs of the common student. And the common student in the college process is not applying to institutions that require 360 degree applicant evaluations. That said, a common solution must also meet the needs of these 360 degree evaluation institutions as well as those institutions that have a more “open” college admissions requirements. In fact, this is the exact reason that we launched SuperAPP.

However, there are some comments to the article that appear to be very misleading or, at a minimum, are very confusing to me. In particular, those referencing that a 501c3 isn’t focused on market share. This is in stark contrast to our efforts to partner with a number of 501c3’s in the education space, including the Common Application.

For the past two years, ConnectEDU has made a concerted effort to partner with the Common Application to streamline and facilitate the college application process for our students that are applying to Common Application institutions. Each year we have been “played” down a path in an effort that the cynic in me believes was designed to keep us out of the college application process. Most recently, we were told by the Executive Director of the Common Application that they would not work with us unless we refused to work with any other college application providers and entered into an exclusive agreement with the Common Application.

To us, this does not at all feel like a 501c3 that is focused on making the college application process as streamlined as possible and as simple as possible for EVERY student. Instead, this is much more consistent with an organization that is solely focused on maintaining and/or dominating market share. The irony of which is it is us that has said “no” to this behavior… that we were willing to work with and integrate into whatever college application solution the colleges have selected as being the best option for them. Our logic is that this is the best way to provide a streamlined process to as many students, counselors and colleges as possible. Again, this is the exact reason that we have launched SuperAPP. We will work with any and all application providers, but we will not be exclusive to any single provider in their effort to protect their market share. Nor will we assist an individual vendor accumulate more market share. For us, this is about servicing the student, not the volume or transaction revenue generated by any given application provider… even the Common Application.

We continue to welcome the opportunity to partner with any and all application providers; including the Common Application so long as the focus is on providing more access to more students, reducing costs and driving efficiency. Currently, colleges using our SuperAPP platform CAN receive the Common Application as well as any of the applications that they have designed with any of the other major application providers in the marketplace. As a result, we believe SuperAPP is a true “democratizer” of access.

I am very interested in hearing from those that want to join us in our effort to drive college access for ALL students as well as access to students for ALL colleges. I welcome your thoughts and comments via Blogger or via Twitter (you can follow me at CraigPowellCDU).