The South Dakota College Access Challenge program, which will provide $1.5 million annually for the next five years, has been renewed to help Native American and other underrepresented K-12 students in their transition to postsecondary education.
The initiative informs students and families about post high school opportunities. Many of the targeted students will be the first generation in their families to attend college.
The College Access Challenge includes a financial component to link students with possible scholarships and grants, and it helps families with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process. The program also contains a small need-based scholarship component.
Gov. Mike Rounds has designated the South Dakota Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education as the College Access Challenge administrator.
The program began in South Dakota in August 2008.
A diverse set of partners in both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education provide special assistance to underrepresented students and families across South Dakota, with an emphasis on Native American students and families.
Data from the South Dakota Board of Regents and Census 2000 indicate Native Americans in South Dakota are significantly underrepresented in higher education, and a disproportionate percentage of them are classified as living in poverty.
“We’re acutely aware of the achievement gap and underrepresentation of our Native American students in South Dakota universities,” Gov. Rounds said. “By involving their families, the College Access Challenge helps bridge that gap and promotes enhanced educational opportunities for those young people.”
The program includes college and career counseling; advising and mentoring; college visits; and workshops that focus on postsecondary options, preparation for continued education after high school, and financial aid.
In addition to systematic professional development to help guidance counselors inform students and parents about college admissions and financial aid processes, South Dakota’s public universities will conduct orientations and coordinate college transition and retention services on individual campuses and system wide.