College Pathways is a new partnership between Santa Ynez Valley educator Ian Cummings and Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP), promoting educational opportunity by providing low-cost, private-session college counseling to families of all income levels.

Cummings, who taught at Midland School for 20 years, conceived of the new program in an effort to address two related problems: inequity in educational opportunity and rapidly rising student debt.

“The decision of whether and where to go to college has become much more important because of the role college graduation plays in social mobility and because of the rising costs of attendance,” Cummings said. “Without good information, too many families and students make poor decisions. Some don’t realize, for instance, that private colleges might be their most affordable options; others take on too much debt to attend college; and others give up their dream of even attending.”

About half of all students who enroll in college drop out, and about half of those dropouts leave school with an average debt of $10,000, Cummings said. Even among college graduates, 70 percent are graduating with an average debt of $33,000, he added.

College Pathways is meant to level the playing field by allowing anyone to afford counseling to help them navigate the college process, Cummings said.

Dean Palius, CEO at PHP, said that the partnership with Cummings was a natural.

“We have recognized for many years that lower-income students, especially those with non-English-speaking parents, were at a disadvantage in identifying post-secondary educational opportunities for their children and finding affordable methods to finance those opportunities. Ian’s objectives and sliding fee scale based upon family income fit PHP’s mission to assist those in need to be successful in school and become self-sufficient.”

College Pathways services are available to people of all income levels, including English learners and students ineligible for federal aid. For more information, call 691-4100, email syvcollegepathways@gmail.com or contact People Helping People at 686-0295.

This report was compiled by Mary Ann Norbom. You can reach her at mnorbom@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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