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Virginia College Access Resource Study

Details and Timeline

Research Initiative and Sponsorship

The study is commissioned by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV), with support from Virginia529. The Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC), an independent research group at Virginia Commonwealth University, is conducting the study.

Aims of the Research

The purpose of the 2016 Virginia College Access Resource Study is to update research on college access resources available across the state of Virginia, first undertaken as part of the 2009 study, A Statewide Examination of College Access Services and Resources in Virginia (Alleman et al., 2009). We take that study’s approach as a starting point, and attempt both to update its findings now that seven years have passed, and, where possible, to develop it further.

The study focuses on college access resources other than those offered by schools themselves. It will collect data and report on three different categories of access providers:

  • Community-based providers, often funded through a mixture of individual and corporate donations, or through state or federal grants
  • State- or higher education-directed providers, with the latter sometimes funded by renewable state or federal grants
  • “Micro-providers,” such as after-school programs, churches, community centers that encourage college-going through information sessions or programs designed to foster connections to colleges or universities

Components of the Research

The study consists of several major research efforts:

  • The first component of the research was undertaken in fall 2015: a review of progress on six main recommendations to access providers that emerged from the 2009 research. A small qualitative study was conducted with seven experts embedded in the field of college access. Read the report .
  • A second part of the study employs secondary data analysis to assess levels of need for college access resources within school divisions, on the basis of each division’s postsecondary enrollment and degree of economic disadvantage. One product of this part of the research will be a listing of school divisions characterized by high need for college access resources, as well as a listing of divisions with slightly lower but still high levels of need (“recognized need”).
  • The third part of the study focuses on understanding the distribution of access resources across school divisions, and the nature of the services they provide. The first step is to identify as many college access providers as possible and to identify a knowledgeable contact at each who can respond to survey questions about the programs offered. Next, we will invite all college access providers we have been able to identify to participate in an online survey, to collect data on the nature of their work and activities, the populations served, and the geographic reach of their services.
  • Fourth, the survey will be followed up by a small number of qualitative interviews that will provide insight into the nature of the work done by specific types of college access providers, and the challenges they face.

    Research Team at Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University

    Amy Corning
    Kathleen Daly
    Jesse Senechal

    Advisory Committee

    Nathan Alleman (senior author on 2009 college access study)
    Associate Professor, Higher Education Studies
    Baylor University

    Paula Craw
    Director, Outreach and Financial Literacy
    Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC)

    Paula Robinson
    Assistant Director of Academic Affairs
    State Council for Higher Education of Virginia

    Sybil Halloran
    Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management
    Virginia Commonwealth University

    Bettsy Heggie
    Great Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP)

    Scott Kemp
    Virginia Community College System (VCCS)

    Beth Miller
    Director of Scholarships and Education Outreach
    Virginia529 College Savings Plan

    Barry Simmons
    President, Virginia College Access Network
    President, Project Discovery of Virginia



Nov. 2015 Release of Update on Virginia College Access Provider Activity report
July 2016 Release of report on school division need for access resources, including listing of high and recognized need school divisions
June–Sept. 2016 Fieldwork under way -- Completion of surveys by access providers
Nov. 30–Dec. 2 2016 Presentation of preliminary results at VirginiaCAN Conference 
Spring 2017 Final report available

Details & Timeline
College Access

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