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Policy & Advocacy


In addition to directly serving over 30,000 individuals annually in Northeast Ohio through one-on-one coaching, financial aid counseling and scholarship and retention services, College Now works to affect systems change through policy and advocacy at the local, state and federal levels.

Local Policy & Advocacy

College Now is committed to increasing rates of postsecondary attainment. Higher education attainment leads to larger salaries, reduced unemployment rates, greater health status and higher rates of productivity. More employers are demanding college degrees or postsecondary credentials and this demand will grow exponentially over the next several decades.

The postsecondary attainment rate in Cleveland is especially low (27%) and though it increases for Northeast Ohio (41%), it is still below the state-wide rate (44%) and the national rate (47%) – and well below the level needed for jobs across the state. Moreover, an increase of just 1% in postsecondary attainment in the region would have a $2.8 billion impact on individuals, families and employers across the region.

Ohio Degree Attainment Graphic

Policy Priorities

College Now meets regularly with the mayor and members of the Cleveland City Council and Cuyahoga County Council to brief them on the impact of our work and to ensure the needs of their individual constituencies are being met through College Now’s services.


  • College Now CEO Lee Friedman is a member of the Executive Committee governing Cleveland’s postsecondary attainment initiative, The Higher Education Compact. She is also a Board member of The Cleveland Transformation Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to growing a portfolio of quality district and charter schools in Cleveland.
  • College Now played a significant role as one of the six convening partners to launch Say to Education-Cleveland, a collective impact model for students attending the Cleveland Metropolitan school District. In addition to providing college and career access advising services to CMSD students, College Now will administer the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship and provide mentors to Say Yes scholarship recipients through the College Now Mentoring Program.
State Policy & Advocacy

Ohio’s Governor, the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Departments of Education and Higher Education each play critical roles in developing and implementing policies pertaining to college access and student success. College Now meets regularly with these key leaders and their staff to ensure the policies being proposed and enacted at the state level have a positive impact on the students we serve.

College Now also supports Ohio’s statewide postsecondary attainment goal: 65 percent of Ohioans, ages 25-64, will have a degree, certificate, or other postsecondary workforce credential of value in the workplace by 2025.

Policy Priorities

A major barrier to degree attainment is Ohio’s high cost of college – Ohio is the fifth most expensive state in the nation to attend college. Even after factoring grants, scholarships and federally subsidized loans, the average College Now scholarship recipient attending a four-year institution faces a $7,895 gap between the available aid and the cost of higher education. This large gap is also a key contributor to rising rates of student loan debt. Among recent undergraduates, 64% of Ohio students graduate with some loan debt – 15th highest in the country – and those students, on average, graduate with $29,723 in loans.

Ohio College Opportunity Grant

To make college more affordable to the students we serve, College Now supports increasing the state’s investment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities through increases to the State Share of Instruction, increasing its investment in the state’s only need-based aid grant the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, keeping tuition and fee increases at Ohio’s public colleges and universities modest and imposing restrictions regarding state-facilitated student loan debt collections.

To learn more, visit Investing in Ohio’s Future Now.

To learn about College Now and the Higher Education Compact’s state budget priorities for FY 2020/2021, review this one-pager.


  • College Now administers a statewide AmeriCorps program, which deploys 85 members at nine college access organizations across Ohio, including 40 members who work for College Now. Using a “near-peer model,” AmeriCorps places recent college graduates into middle schools, high schools and community centers to help guide traditionally underserved high school students to prepare for, access and complete their postsecondary credentials.
  • College Now has recently partnered with the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Finish for Your Future, the goal of which is to increase the number of Ohio adults enrolled in higher education from 27% to 40% by 2025.
  • College Now garnered nine 21st Century Community Learning Center grants in 2018 from the Ohio Department of Education to support its “impact!” program, an eight-week after school program that helps high school students improve math and reading skills, ACT scores, and increase students’ college and career readiness.
  • College Now was awarded its second Community Connectors grant in 2018 from the Ohio Department of Education to create and implement a school-based mentoring program that helps eighth-grade students in Warrensville Heights build a foundation for postsecondary and career success.
  • College Now is proud to serve as a member of the Statewide Attainment Steering Committee, led by Philanthropy Ohio, which is tasked with helping the state meet its 65% attainment goal by 2025.

To learn more about these programs: Ohio Education Funding 2019

To learn more about college affordability in Ohio: College Affordability in Ohio

Federal Policy & Advocacy

College Now corresponds regularly with its federally elected representatives to share its ongoing work and voice opinions on proposed legislation and regulations. College Now’s federal policy priorities are developed in conjunction with the National College Access Network, a national association representing college access organizations based in Washington D.C., the Council for Opportunity in Education, which advocates for federal TRiO programs and the National Council for Community and Education Programs, which advocates for the GEAR-UP grant program.

Policy Priorities

The federal government, through the Higher Education Act of 1965, plays an important role in supporting postsecondary attainment by funding college access programs, providing students with financial aid and by promoting transparency and accountability among institutions of higher education. The federal government also provides numerous loan repayment plans and student loan debt forgiveness programs.

To improve college affordability and promote college access and success, College Now advocates for maintaining and deepening federal grant opportunities as well as for numerous policies, with a current focus on simplifying the FASFA form, increasing the Pell grant and creating consumer-friendly, student loan repayment options.


  • College Now is in the midst of running a Talent Search program, funded through a competitive federal grant from the US Department of Education, to promote high school graduation and college matriculation for CMSD students at John F. Kennedy, Glenville and John Marshall high schools. The program includes one-on-one advising services, college and career visits, career talks, scholarship clubs and shadowing opportunities.
  • College Now has been awarded two, multi-year Upward Bound grants from the US Department of Education to serve students at East Cleveland’s Shaw High School and Warrensville Heights High School. College Now Advisors provide participating scholars with school-based activities that improve academics, promote executive functioning skills and goal-setting and encourage their post-high school aspirations.
  • College Now participates in two GEAR UP programs funded through the US Department of Education to serve students in the Parma City Schools District’s high schools as well as a cohort of students in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District. These comprehensive grants work to transform schools by helping at-risk students prepare for and achieve success in college.

To learn more about these programs: U.S. Department of Education Funding 2019

To learn more about college affordability in Ohio: College Affordability in Ohio 

Take Action

Action Alert: College Now often needs your help communicating to elected officials the impact proposed or enacted local, state, and federal laws/regulations have on your ability to access or complete postsecondary or pay back student loans.

To sign up for action alerts, to learn more about our work in this area, or to share your story