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Partner Spotlight

NPEA is Working to Improve Educational Access

Learn what NPEA does, the benefits of membership, how they partner with colleges, the tools they offer students, and how they remove barriers to college access.
Woman using tablet to learn about NPEA

Since its inception, the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) has worked to bring together organizations that help eliminate barriers to educational access. NPEA been a key partner not just for MEFA, but for educators, counselors, and institutions across the country. In the wake of an unpredictable year, Karin Elliot, the Vice President and Executive Director of NPEA, discussed with us the organization's mission and challenges, and how they continue to bring people and institutions together to promote access to educational success. 

JH: Can you tell us what NPEA does in your own words?

KE: NPEA is at its core a convener and connector for those in the field of education who are supporting historically marginalized students. We connect the people, practices, and innovations essential for eliminating barriers to educational access and college and career success for underserved students. 

Since 2007, the National Partnership for Educational Access (NPEA) has fulfilled a need for organizations and schools across the country to share best practices and learn from one other in order to strengthen the field of college access and close the achievement gap that prevents so many children from attaining the benefits of a college degree. NPEA is an initiative of The Steppingstone Foundation, based in Boston. 

JH: NPEA is a member organization. Can you tell me who are your members, and what are some of the benefits of membership?

KE: One of the ways in which NPEA is unique is that we bring members together from across the many different parts of the education world, including higher education, K-12, and community-based organizations. NPEA members are innovators in their communities, leaders in their organizations and institutions, and continuous learners who are committed to advancing the field. Benefits for members include networking opportunities, professional development on a wide range of topics through webinars, forums, and workshops, our annual national conference, local and regional networking events, access to a robust career center, involvement in the NPEA Data Counts project, information requests, a member online community, and more!

JH: Can you talk about how you have partnered with colleges in order to help students through special programs? (I'm thinking about the fly-in program for example)  

KE: School members have presented at our national conference, participated in virtual forums and in-person events, sat on panels, and hosted campus site visits, to name a few examples of partnership. We have a higher education virtual forum panel coming up on July 28th with representatives from Williams College, Pomona College, and Washington University in St. Louis who will share their plans for transitioning students back to being on campus in the fall and how they are planning to support students. We recently highlighted a few of our higher education members in our monthly Digest, sharing their upcoming fly-in plans.

JH: Can you talk about some of the most pressing issues facing these students from underserved communities and what tools NPEA offers members to help?

KE: In discussions with members over the year, and from our most recent member satisfaction survey this spring, we know issues that are top of mind include student mental health and wellness, learning recovery, addressing racism, financial aid and college affordability, returning to in-person learning, and continuing to address the current and long-term impacts of COVID-19. We are providing resources to our members on these topics through our virtual forums on summer programming, mental health, and returning to college campuses. Conference attendees can still access all conference content through the end of July and can view many workshops on these topics and more. We are planning to hold a professional development series in the fall on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have greatly appreciated our partnership with MEFA and the expertise you have shared with NPEA members through webinars, conference workshops, your website, resource-sharing, and supporting learning about college savings. 

JH: It's the mission of NPEA to remove barriers to college access. What are some of the most effective ways to do that?

KE: NPEA has learned that one of the most effective ways to reduce barriers is to ensure that schools and programs are talking to each other and have the opportunity to connect with and learn from each other. NPEA provides the environment where colleges and universities can connect with community-based organizations who can connect with K-12 schools, all while putting the needs of students and families first and finding ways to holistically support students. The fact that we have members reaching out across their different "silos" to talk to each other, share data, and plan collaborations and partnerships moves everyone closer to removing barriers and ensuring positive outcomes for students. 

To learn more about NPEA and their work to remove barriers to educational access, visit their website here.

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