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Bottom Line is a nonprofit organization that serves low income, first-generation college students as well as college-bound high school seniors. Its college completion rate is a stunning 78%–nearly double the graduation rate of low income students not in a college support program. Founded in Boston in 1997, Bottom Line has supported about 4,000 students annually and has helped more than 1,000 students graduate. This year, it will work with nearly 5,000 students in Massachusetts, New York, and Chicago.
Virgil Jones, the organization’s brand-new CEO, will oversee Bottom Line’s national expansion and regional development. He’ll also be focusing on external relationships. “I’ll be reaching out to constituents all across the country and fundraising at the national level,” Jones says. “We’re putting together a comprehensive development plan to have greater impact and expand into new markets. We’re also looking at diversifying the board of directors.”
Jones is the former president of Link Unlimited, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to providing college preparatory services to disadvantaged African American high school students. Under Jones’s leadership, Link Unlimited supported more than 1,000 students through college graduation and tripled the organization’s operating budget. Jones is now looking to expand Bottom Line so it can support more students into and through college in each of its regions. “It’s Bottom Line’s goal to transform urban communities by producing thousands of career-ready college graduates,” says Jones, who will work primarily in the Boston office.
The organization is having an impact. According to its website, students who participate in Bottom Line’s College Success program graduate within six years at rates up to 43% higher than students who receive support with college applications only. Along with its other college support program, College Access, Bottom Line works with public high schools and community based organization partners to support rising high school seniors who meet its income guidelines and are accepted into its program. The nonprofit works with students who have GPA’s from about 2.2 to those on the honor roll. Students are supported through both the college admissions and financial aid application processes. “We work with students who don’t know how to navigate the college access process through to the final stage,” Jones says. “We talk about college fit and make sure the financial piece is within their purview.”
Students who successfully complete the College Access program are automatically accepted into College Success, but any student who has been accepted to one of Bottom Line’s 47 target colleges can apply for admission to College Success. “We support them until they get a degree, or up to six years,” Jones says. “We track them and will intervene in the case of failing students.”
Why is Bottom Line so successful? Because of the caliber of its programs, Jones says, as well as its team members and the support it offers students. “Not only do we have incredibly strong programs, we also undergo systematic evaluations to make sure we’re providing the best. We have strong team members to implement the programs–people who can connect and work well with the students, who provide high-touch, substantive support all along the way. We provide a program that’s comprehensive and holistic–to make it so that students would have to work hard not to succeed.”
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