About Us

History, Mission & Vision


Our Mission

College Now’s mission is to increase postsecondary educational attainment through college and career access advising, financial aid counseling, and scholarship and retention services.

Our Vision

We envision a future in which all members of our community have the support they need to successfully complete their postsecondary education, allowing them to lead more satisfying and productive lives and contribute to the region’s economic vitality.

Our History

College Now was founded by Robert Coplan, one of the founders of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan, and Aronoff law firm. College Now was the first organization of its kind in the nation. Since then, it has become the largest in Ohio and remains one of the largest in the nation. College Now is a national leader and has served as a model and best practice for other organizations around the country.

College Now was the nation’s first college access organization and served as a model for peer organizations across the country. Our work remains an example of best practice in college access work. We collaborate and innovate to deliver cutting-edge college access programming to students of all ages. Our expertise has allowed us to secure highly competitive federal grants that enable us to expand and deepen our services in Northeast Ohio.

Who We Help

College Now helps students as early as middle and high school students as well as adult learners achieve their dreams of going to and succeeding in certificate, two-year and four-year degree programs.

We reach over 29,000 students and adult learners a year, providing college access success advising, financial aid counseling and scholarship and retention services. Many of our students are from low-income families and are first-generation college students.

College Now works with middle and high school students in schools and community-based settings across five Northeast Ohio counties and our advisors create a “college-going” culture in the schools by engaging students and their families individually and in group sessions.

College Now’s focus on adult learners is critical to the success of developing Greater Cleveland’s talent. We provide our solutions to adults, ages 19 and older, who want to return to college or are enrolling for the first time. The College Now Resource Center is a primary point of contact with adult learners, including dislocated workers, unemployed individuals, displaced homemakers, and veterans.

Community Initiatives

College Now is a proud partner of a number of community initiatives that serve students as they embark on their postsecondary journeys.

The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland

In 2010, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson spearheaded the creation of the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland (the Compact), a collective effort involving 70 partners from key sectors: government, public education, higher education, philanthropic, civic and youth-serving organizations. Grounded in the knowledge that bachelor’s degree attainment is one of the top predictors of economic competitiveness and that Cleveland is not producing sufficient numbers of adequately credentialed young people, Compact partners developed six-year goals for increasing high school graduation, college enrollment and college completion.

College Now is an active partner in the Compact. CEO Lee Friedman sits on the executive committee, and College Now acts as the fiscal agent for the Compact. Additionally, a number of College Now staff participate on the Compact’s Operations Committee.

Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools

As a strategic partner of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), College Now is invested in the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. The goal of the Cleveland Plan is to ensure that every child in Cleveland attends a high-quality school and that every neighborhood has a multitude of great schools from which families can chose. The Cleveland Plan’s four-part strategy includes:

  1. Growing the number of high-performing District and charter schools in Cleveland and closing and replacing failing schools;
  2. Focusing the District’s central office on key support and governance roles and transferring authority and resources to schools;
  3. Creating the Cleveland Transformation Alliance to ensure accountability for all public schools in the city; and
  4. Investing and phasing in high-leverage system reforms across all schools, from preschool to college and career.

College Now’s CEO serves on the Board of Directors of the Cleveland Transformation Alliance, and, with advisors embedded within each CMSD high school as well as several middle schools, the organization is committed to ensuring that students are prepared for college and career.

Say Yes Cleveland

Launched in January 2019, Say Yes Cleveland is a community initiative that provides support services to students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) from Pre-K through high school graduation. It also provides last-dollar, tuition-only, gap-closing scholarships for eligible CMSD graduates. College Now serves as the fiscal agent for Say Yes Cleveland and also administers the Say Yes Cleveland scholarships. Recognizing the impact of College Now’s Mentoring Program, Say Yes Cleveland requires its scholarship recipients to participate in our Mentoring Program.​

Say Yes Cleveland is a 25-year scholarship program, and it is the program’s goal to transform the lives of CMSD’s students and families for generations to come through its support.

Planning and Career Exploration (PACE)
In November 2021, CMSD and the Cleveland Foundation launched a new community initiative for CMSD students called PACE. PACE is a curriculum which is being embedded into CMSD’s 6th- to 12th-grade curricula to help students gain knowledge, skills, and experiences for careers they wish to pursue. The ultimate objective of PACE is for students to graduate from high school with a specific career plan and a pathway for how to realize that plan, which can include goals to complete college, career training, or another form of postsecondary education.

PACE brings together the public sector, regional employers, and youth-serving organizations to provides students with information and hands-on experiences regarding potential careers that align with students’ interests and skillsets. College Now is one of six core partners in the PACE initiative, along with Neighborhood Leadership Institute (True2U), Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.), Greater Cleveland Partnership, and The Fund for Our Economic Future.