COVID-19 has magnified barriers and roadblocks to higher education, especially for underserved, low-income, and first-generation college students. Credit: San Antonio Education Partnership

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What does a college degree or a technical certificate mean to you? What was involved in you obtaining your degree? How has it helped you along the way?
If you are still pursuing your degree or certificate program: Who has helped you get this far? What have you learned? What are your dreams?

Are you struggling to even dream of pursuing a degree or certificate? What roadblocks are holding you back?

College access has never been more critical than right now. Our community is wrestling with the effects of COVID-19, and we do not yet have a clear picture of how higher education will be affected. What we do know is that we can no longer ignore the reality that well before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already wide discrepancies and inequities in access to higher education. COVID-19 has only magnified these “Hard Truths”.

Today, we have students not attending the colleges they’ve been accepted to this fall semester because of finances, fear of COVID, the need to enter the workforce, or the need to be a caregiver for a family member. We have high school students unsure if college is the right choice for their future. We have students disengaging due to limited or no access to high-speed, high-quality internet. Or they are disengaging because no matter how robust a school’s virtual learning program may be, it will never replace in-person learning.

And the list of roadblocks goes on.

Through this pandemic, though, organizations, schools, and businesses are quickly innovating and changing gears faster than many ever thought possible. Every day, San Antonians are showcasing creative and inspiring solutions.

San Antonio Education Partnership, for example, quickly moved to online virtual college advising for our students this past spring. We have reached close to 10,000 students since March. We are unwavering in our commitment to seeing San Antonio students succeed. We have and always will put the student at the center of our mission.

We are here for the first-generation college student struggling to navigate a complex college application system. We are here for the adult changing paths and going back to school while mid-career. We are here for the single parent coming back to finish their degree after breaking for a while.

Students on these paths have greater struggles when there is not a role model encouraging them at each turn. We have students who want to pursue a college degree, but tuition costs are a daunting hurdle. What about those individuals who have obligations at home, and they just can’t fathom leaving their families?

What about those individuals who are thrilled to go to college, but despite getting into the school of their choice with a scholarship, still don’t make it because of the “other” associated costs?

None of these paths are easy. San Antonio Education Partnership is here to make the path easier.

Let us come together and have these honest conversations. Let us be innovative. Let us be creative. Let us find new ways to make sure our students remain engaged and are supported in pursuing their higher education dreams. Our city can come out stronger after all of this.

We are asking our community to step up and champion students.

The question now is: Will the gap widen in access to higher education for students that are disadvantaged in our society? What will we do? What will YOU do?

To wrestle with these questions during a hopeful yet honest virtual conversation, please join San Antonio Education Partnership for “Hard Truths” on Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. You will enjoy hearing from Texas State Board of Education District 3 Representative Marisa B. Pérez-Díaz, and Communities in Schools President and CEO Rey Saldaña. San Antonio Education Partnership Executive Director Lisa Cunningham and board member Willie Ng will be part of our conversation as well.

“Hard Truths” is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required:

It is our hope you will walk away from “Hard Truths” feeling enlightened, empowered, and challenged, but hopeful for a brighter future.

For more than 30 years, San Antonio Education Partnership (SAEP) has walked hand-in-hand with a quarter of a million students, helping them pursue their higher education dreams. SAEP provides students,...