Higher Ground addresses the alarming drop-out rate at America's colleges and universities, especially among students-of-color and low-income students. The program was designed by Civic Strategies, a nonprofit organization that works with economically and educationally disadvantaged youth to help them enter college. The primary focus of Higher Ground is to help low-income and minority students overcome the academic and social adjustment problems they face in college by training college staff and faculty to work more closely and productively with students who are at-risk of dropping out. From 1990 through 1994, Higher Ground was tested in more than 10 higher education institutions around the country. The test had been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, and an anonymous donor.
Higher Ground offers two- and-four-year institutions with an opportunity to develop an internal management and coordinating structure that improves existing students services. The program model includes: pre-freshmen year courses consisting of a six-week orientation, academic enrichment and internship program; career activities including exploration, part-time employment, career-path planing and community-career connections; and faculty and peer mentoring. Civic Strategies provides the materials, training, consulting and technical assistance necessary to operate the program successfully.
Independent evaluators concluded that Higher Ground helped more than 800 students stay in school and improved the retention rate by approximately 15%. A number of colleges increased their individual retention rate more than 15%.