A college degree can often help end generational poverty. Yet, when students can’t graduate on time, they are more likely to incur greater student loan debt. Barriers like transportation costs and child care only add to students’ challenges, sometimes making it hard to stay in school. 

Nationally, fewer than 40 percent finish within six years, according to research conducted by the University of Notre Dame.

To help break the cycle, Catholic Charities of Baltimore is offering the Stay the Course™  a new program in partnership with the Community College of Baltimore County. Funded through a grant from Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, students are paired with trained navigators who help them address barriers to their completion of a degree or certificate.

“We appreciate the opportunity to establish this working relationship with Catholic Charities and look forward to working collaboratively to assist community college students with navigating personal and institutional obstacles that impact their academic success,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtintis.

Stay the Course was started in 2013 by Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, Texas, in partnership with Notre Dame’s research program called the Lab for Economic Opportunities. Research showed that financial support is not enough to ensure that students graduate on time. Over three years, students who participated in the full Stay the Course program were significantly more likely to stay enrolled and graduate within six semesters.

“These young students are often the first in their family to pursue a higher degree,” said Catholic Charities’ Stay the Course Administrator Sue DeSantis. “They need guidance on how to efficiently navigate college life and personal barriers, and to graduate.”

Over the next three consecutive semesters, Catholic Charities of Baltimore and CCBC will recruit 120 students to participate in the program for up to four years. Each student will work with an assigned navigator who will offer case management. They will also receive access to limited emergency financial assistance. These students will be tracked as part of the research program.

Another randomly selected group of 120 students will be the control group, receiving fewer supports. LEO and Catholic Charities of Fort Worth will track the impact of Stay the Course programs as they are replicated across the United States.

The program is limited to qualifying CCBC students only. The students are invited to apply for random lottery selection to participate.