Programs Serve 5 Community Colleges, 16 Districts

This fall, the Peer Mentors in our College Persistence Program are offering their help to 600 students at five community colleges.

“I don’t know that anybody else would have predicted this when we started,” says Chris Marcelli, director of programs. “We had a sense that 2019 was something of a pilot, and that we wanted to see it grow if it seemed workable. But the opportunity to scale up this rapidly has been a combination of good planning, good outcomes and lucky timing.”

Three years ago, this program started as a small Action Team of the ALL IN! Coalition, serving about 30 first-year college students who had just graduated with the Hartford Public Schools class of 2019. When Achieve Hartford took it on as a full program in 2020, it jumped to more than 120 Hartford students at Capital and Manchester Community Colleges. In 2021, we added new graduates from five other Alliance Districts in Hartford County attending those colleges, taking the program roster to more than 300.

According to the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities’ (CSCU) Office of Research and System Effectiveness, “fall-to-spring persistence” for Connecticut community college students under the age of 24 from the zip codes we served at the time was 58% for fall 2020; meanwhile, students in our cohort persisted at the substantially higher rate of 71%.

“They haven’t posted similar data for the fall of 2021 yet,” Marcelli says. “But our own results have been pretty consistent, so we’re expecting that when they do, we’ll continue to compare favorably.”

This year, the program expands to Middlesex, Quinebaug Valley and Three Rivers Community Colleges, serving students from 10 additional Alliance Districts in those areas. The five colleges in the program’s newly expanded catchment area correspond to CSCU’s Capital-East Region.

Though the exact nature of that administrative structure is in flux, as of next summer, the system will transition fully to being a single institution, Connecticut Community College.