NU joins coalition dedicated to access, affordability in college application process


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

The new Segal Visitors Center overlooks the lake. Northwestern recently joined a new coalition of schools dedicated to making the college application more accessible to students of all income levels.

Peter Kotecki, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern has joined a coalition of universities dedicated to making college affordable and accessible by offering a new online application system.

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success announced on Monday it will open the college application system to increase engagement with high school students, particularly those from minority and low-income families. More than 80 institutions have already committed to use the system when it comes out.

Applications will go online in summer 2016, providing an alternative to the Common Application, which is used by more than 600 institutions, the coalition said in a news release.

Michael Mills, associate provost for university enrollment, said the new application system will hopefully allow NU to reach students that the Common App couldn’t reach. Although the Common App includes some uncertainty about meeting students’ demonstrated financial need, the coalition’s system will ensure students receive enough financial aid, he said.

“We liked the idea that students who get admitted to any of the schools who accept this application would have the financial aid to be able to attend,” Mills said. “We liked that signal and that message a lot.”

An institution’s six-year graduation rate must exceed 70 percent to join the coalition. Public schools must offer an affordable tuition for in-state students, and private institutions must meet the full, demonstrated financial need of admitted domestic students.

The new system will be free for students but colleges and universities will pay a membership fee to be in the coalition, the group said.

An initial set of tools will become available in January 2016, the coalition said in the news release. The tools — a digital portfolio, a collaboration platform and an application portal — are designed to guide and support students during the college application process, letting them begin planning for college earlier in their high school careers.

According to the coalition’s website, the portfolio is meant to be a meeting place for counselors, teachers and mentors, allowing them to help support students’ application processes with feedback and editing.

Mills said NU will make preparations in its administrative systems to accommodate the new technology that will accompany the coalition’s application system.

“(We will) contribute in all the conversations that will take place with coalition members and with high school guidance counselors about how to make the tool really effective,” Mills said.

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Twitter: @peterkotecki