Way2GoMaryland: USM Launches New Campaign to Put More Middle-School Students on the College-Bound Track

ADELPHI, Md. (September 13, 2008) - The University System of Maryland (USM) has launched a new information campaign to help put more students on a college-bound path at an earlier age. Called Way2GoMaryland, the campaign features a new web site (www.way2gomaryland.org) and events around the state to help middle- and high-school students prepare for a successful transition to college life.

Way2GoMaryland's lead sponsor, ATK, has pledged $210,000 in financial and in-kind support for the campaign over the next three years. With more than 17,000 employees in 21 states and over $4.6 billion in revenue, ATK is one of the nation's leading aerospace and defense companies.

"ATK is proud to be the sponsor of Way2GoMaryland," said Jack Cronin, president of ATK Missions Systems Group. "As an advanced aerospace and defense company, ATK understands the importance of education and is committed to helping provide the opportunity and tools the young men and women of Maryland need to reach their future goals."

The campaign's kick-off event was held Saturday, September 13, 2008, at the Maryland Science Center, which supported the launch of Way2GoMaryland by donating the use of its facilities and free passes for 100 Baltimore City middle school students and their families.

"The Maryland Science Center is pleased to be part of the launch of this important initiative," said Van Reiner, president and CEO of the Maryland Science Center. "Reaching the target audience for Way2GoMaryland is critical if our state and nation are to continue to be leaders and innovators in the sciences. Sparking continued interest in higher education and career options is a mission we share with USM and ATK."

The students were treated to a preview of the new web site, heard the stories of current USM students who overcame obstacles on their way to college, attended a college fair with admissions and financial aid representatives of USM's 11 universities, and enjoyed a morning of fun and learning at the center. Representatives of the Maryland Higher Education Commission and the College Savings Plans of Maryland were also on hand to meet students and answer questions.

"National studies show that having a college degree doubles your annual earning potential," said USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan. "To ensure that more students have the opportunity to pursue a degree and improve their quality of life, we need to help them focus on attending college from middle school onward. Way2GoMaryland will help them and their families know the steps they need to take to stay on a college-bound path."

"I congratulate the University System of Maryland on the launch of its Way2GoMaryland campaign," said James Lyons, Maryland Secretary of Higher Education. "The Way2GoMaryland program coalesces nicely with what we are doing at the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which is to reach out to students at a much earlier age than we have in the past. We want to encourage the middle school students and their parents to begin taking the appropriate steps to college now. I share Governor O'Malley's view that attaining a degree in higher education is essential in today's competitive global economy."

"The seed for success in college works best when planted early," said Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. "Way2GoMaryland is a great way to help young people consider their future and all of the exciting options that lay before them."

In order to help students and families chart a path to college, the Way2GoMaryland information campaign will include:

  • The www.way2gomaryland.org web site with the plan of launching a Spanish-language version in the coming months;
  • Posters and publications available in English and Spanish for distribution to students, families, schools, churches, clubs, and other civic organizations;
  • Special events held around the state to share information designed to help students focus on the steps they will need to take on the college-bound track;
  • Resources to help organizations across Maryland serving middle- and high-school students;
  • Utilizing a wide range of existing relationships and partnerships between middle schools and USM universities to extend outreach and resources.

"Reaching out to our young people and giving them the tools for success is not only vital for their own lives, but is needed for the betterment of our communities and our nation," said Dr. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Baltimore City's Bethel A.M.E. Church and a member of the USM Board of Regents. "I am committed to helping the University System of Maryland carry the message. Way2GoMaryland will partner with the many churches and faith-based organizations across our state who are already engaged in active outreach to students. By working together, I know we will be able to help more of our youth reach their educational and life goals."

Way2GoMaryland is part of Chancellor Kirwan's Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative launched in November 2007. National statistics show that first-generation, underrepresented, and low-income students are finding it harder to afford and to complete a college degree, limiting their chances for success in the expanding global knowledge economy.

Nationally, while college-going rates rise, college attendance and completion gaps between different groups of students are expanding. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, African American students earn bachelor's degrees at half (18%)-and Latinos at one-third (11%)-the rate of white students (34%). Low-income students earn bachelor's degrees at one-eighth the rate of their more economically advantaged counterparts (9% vs. 75% by age 24).

By the year 2015, USM has pledged to cut by at least half the gaps in college-going and college completion rates that separate low-income and underrepresented students from other young Americans. Way2GoMaryland will be part of this effort by encouraging more students, especially those in middle school, to begin preparing for college earlier. An early start on the path to college can help students:

  • pursue the right mix of secondary school coursework and be successful;
  • prepare for the college search and application process;
  • gain access to adequate financial aid;
  • complete undergraduate degrees successfully and prepare to enter the workforce and/or pursue graduate and professional studies.

For information or questions about Way2GoMaryland, e-mail way2gomaryland@usmd.edu, or visit www.way2gomaryland.org for student resources and news of upcoming community events across the state of Maryland.

Contact: John Buettner
Phone: 301.445.2719
Email: jbuettner@usmd.edu