Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Comprehensive Advising from College Access to Success

Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Comprehensive Advising from College Access to Success
Moving the Needle for First-Generation College Students: Comprehensive Advising from College Access to Success


In today’s economy, a postsecondary credential is in greater demand than ever before. By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require some form of education beyond high school. Over a lifetime, individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn 84 percent more than those with only a high school diploma. Moreover, individuals with college credentials are also more likely to vote, volunteer, and enjoy better health outcomes.

However, preparing for, applying to, and succeeding in college is not always easy. Navigating the college process can be daunting for some students, particularly first generation college students from low income homes (FGLI) who often face unique barriers to postsecondary enrollment and degree attainment. This webinar highlighted comprehensive advising strategies for supporting FGLI students’ college access, transition, and success and discussed the role of policy in scaling these efforts.

Presenter Biographies

pam blumenthal formattedPam Blumenthal is the director of Links Programs at Portland Community College (PCC). The four Links Programs: Future Connect, Project DEgree, Gateway to College and YES to College all support college success for under-represented students. Pam has worked in education for over 17 years and holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Prior to working at PCC Ms. Blumenthal worked in K-12 settings as both a child and family therapist and a program manager.



josh laurie formattedJosh Laurie has 10 years experience managing programs with students who experience homelessness, foster care, juvenile justice systems and the transition to college from K-12 systems.  Josh holds a Master’s degree in Teaching and has been the only manager supervising staff and students in the Future Connect program since its inception in 2011. Prior to PCC, Josh worked with students in non traditional school settings in the K-12 system.



Magesis pic 2016 formattedCassie Magesis serves as the Director of College Readiness for the Urban Assembly. She came to the Urban Assembly in 2012 from the Options Center at Goddard Riverside Community Center. During her five years at Options, Cassie served as an Educational Counselor and as a Lead Trainer for the Options Institute. During her time there, she helped students through the admissions and financial aid process and provided trainings on college access topics to counselors across New York City. She is currently on the executive board of the New York State Association for College Admissions Counseling, the Middle States Regional Council for the College Board and the Admission Practices Committee for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Morgan photo 2016 formattedElizabeth Morgan is Director of External Relations for the National College Access Network (NCAN), where she is responsible for fundraising and communications. Previously, Ms. Morgan was director of youth programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, where she oversaw the development and management of up to $7.5 million annually in grants to other nonprofit organizations as well as the foundation’s scholarship program helping low-income students attend highly selective colleges and universities. Through the foundation’s grants, Elizabeth helped to launch or grow several NCAN member programs. Ms. Morgan has also worked as grant officer for the Michigan State Bar Foundation and as a journalist and editor for the Bureau of National Affairs, the World Bank, and the alumni magazine of the Washington College of Law. She holds a J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University and an A.B. in history from Duke University.

Tarkenton headshot formattedRana Tarkenton has been with DSF since 2008 and currently serves as the deputy executive director and chief operating officer. She formerly served as the director of DSF’s College Success Services. As deputy executive director, Tarkenton oversees DSF’s three-part program (access, success and scholarships) which has helped thousands of Denver Public Schools students to enroll and succeed in college or technical school.

Tarkenton has a master’s degree in higher education administration from Harvard University, and before joining DSF, she helped develop college access and scholarship programs at College in Colorado, Colorado GEAR UP and CollegeInvest, all under the umbrella of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Tarkenton’s professional activities include service as an executive board member of the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling, advisory board chair of the Colorado Counselor Corp Grant Program, and a board member of the YESS Institute.

View the presentation slideshow


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.