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—rural school districts. Additionally, the Initiative extends professional development and technical assistance to demonstration sites.
Through intensive technical assistance, strategy development and implementation of school district-wide plans, the RSSI leads school districts in leveraging local assets and partnerships to collectively build a college-going culture in rural communities. Strategy implementation consists of an evidenced-based approach where three distinct sections of the access/completion pipeline are targeted to support rural students and their family:
- Grades 8-12;
- the summer period between high school graduation and college matriculation; and
- postsecondary retention/completion.
Once in college, the Initiative continues to support students with customized, virtual advising services designed to supplement postsecondary institution’s retention/completion support strategies. The distinct strategies deployed within each of these critical stages of a student’s academic pathway are predicted to result higher levels of a postsecondary certificate or degree completions.
The Initiative is currently available to a limited number of grant-funded regions including 21 school districts in 19 counties.
Counties include: Trinity (Apple Springs ISD); Duval (Benavides ISD & Freer ISD); Colorado (Columbus ISD); Hopkins (Cumby ISD); Floyd (Floydada Collegiate ISD); Jones (Hamlin Collegiate ISD); Angelina (Huntington ISD); Jasper (Jasper ISD); Zavala (La Pryor ISD); Willacy (Lasara ISD & San Perlita ISD); Cameron (Rio Hondo ISD); Kleberg (Riviera ISD); Nolan (Roscoe Collegiate ISD); San Augustine (San Augustine ISD); Fayette (Schulenburg ISD); Bee (Skidmore -Tynan ISD); Tyler (Spurger ISD); Throckmorton (Throckmorton Collegiate ISD); Fannin (Trenton ISD)
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