The goal of the AgriLife Extension Rural Student Success Initiative (the “Initiative”) is to increase the number of rural students enrolling in and completing a postsecondary certificate or degree program.
Lack of resources and support has led to an isolated population of rural students and parents that is less savvy about college planning and less likely to attempt and complete a postsecondary credential than their urban peers. Although there is no uniform definition of “rural,” the number of rural students in Texas is indisputably large – perhaps as high as 900,000 – and widely dispersed across many of the state’s small- to medium-sized school districts.
Texas’ vast rural landscape presents a logistical challenge to delivering a consistent framework of college access and success supports to rural students and their parents. To overcome this challenge, the Initiative leverages Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s unique statewide platform of place-based county agents and youth development staff. The Initiative pairs Extension’s place-based platform with best-in-class, credible college access/success organizations, to provide students, their parents and schools with information and services shown to increase college participation and success. The Initiative’s student and parent support framework, and formative evaluation drive strategy implementation at its demonstration sites. Additionally, the Initiative extends professional development and technical assistance to demonstration sites.
The Initiative engages four key constituencies to influence student academic goal-setting and success:
Parents / Adult
The Initiative focuses its support strategies on three distinct sections of the access/completion pipeline to support rural students and their parents:
8 – 12
between high school graduation and college matriculation
Postsecondary Retention / Completion
The Initiative is led by a Director, and centrally staffed with College Access & Success, and Data specialists. Locally, part-time leadership coaches provide ongoing support to the county agents within the demonstration sites. A local leadership team of secondary and postsecondary leaders, counselors, and community leaders co-led by the county extension agent and central staff inform the development and implementation of strategies at the local level. This local team works with their schools and community based organizations to implement the Initiative’s curricular framework to support all students and parents in Grades 8-12 and during the summer before their first day of college to mitigate summer melt. Once in college, the Initiative continues to support students with customized, virtual advising services designed to supplement postsecondary institution’s retention/completion support strategies.