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New College Access Campaign Teaches Students To “KnowHow2GO”

With only 9 percent of low-income students completing college by age 24, compared to 75 percent from high-income families, a coalition of higher education advocates today will launch a new multi-media campaign to clear up misconceptions and show poor students that college is within their reach.

The KnowHow2GO campaign is a joint effort between The Advertising Council, Lumina Foundation for Education and the American Council on Education, or ACE. The campaign features television and radio public service announcements, outdoor and print advertising and an interactive website, which delivers guiding information to students, parents, and organizations.

The two-year campaign targets eighth-grade to tenth-grade students to help them take the steps necessary to be the first in their family to go to college. In addition, it also seeks to reach their parents to encourage them to start the college preparation process early.

Research conducted for the campaign showed that low-income and first-generation students have high aspirations for college, but do not have clear information on what steps they need to take. Campaign research also showed that parents expect the student to take the lead in pursuing college.

“This campaign is critical now because America has slipped in comparison to other countries in the proportion of young people who are earning college degrees,” said Martha D. Lamkin, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “Even more important, the attainment gap between income groups is widening at the same time that low-income students constitute a growing share of the college-age population. We must reach out to these low-income students, so they can earn better opportunities, and so that America will have the educated population to sustain its economic and social vitality.”

The national public service announcement combines education, community-based, and government partnerships to raise awareness among low-income students about preparing for college and what it takes to get there. The PSAs are being distributed to 28,000 media stations nationwide throughout January, and will include new television and radio advertising created specifically for the Hispanic community in coming weeks.

“Our research with low-income and first-generation prospective students revealed that they have widespread enthusiasm for going to college, yet few are taking the necessary steps to prepare to get there,” says Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council.

In addition to the media components of the campaign, KnowHow2GO will utilize a network of grassroots partners, including mentor and youth-serving organizations that will reinforce the campaign in local communities. ACE will tap into the nearly 2,000 colleges and universities and higher education associations that comprise its membership to further expand the campaign’s reach.

Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, students and parents can access a toll-free number (800-433-3243) to request a new brochure containing tips on preparing for college. 

“Unfortunately, many young people believe that higher education is inaccessible to them or they assume that if they do well in school, admission to college will just magically happen,” said David Ward, president of ACE. “These assumptions are misguided and we want to empower students and their families to take actions based on a better understanding of the process. One of the major themes of the campaign is for students to know it takes more than good grades and big dreams to get into college.”

Created pro bono by ad agency Publicis in New York, KnowHow2GO focuses on four creative messages that speak to young people directly to help them understand the steps necessary to go to college, which are: “Be a Pain,” “Push Yourself,” “Find the Right Fit” and “Put Your Hands on Some Cash.”

–Dianne Hayes

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