In America, we’ve promised that hard work and ambition will be met with equality of opportunity, but the reality is that we have a quiet crisis on our hands.
Before COVID-19, a bachelor’s degree holder from a low-income background started their career earning 66¢ on the dollar to their higher income peers, and an African American with a BA was almost twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterpart.
While education can be a great equalizer, only 30% of our country’s 1.3 million first-generation or low-income college enrollees are predicted to land a strong job after graduation.
Braven, a national nonprofit organization with a site in Newark, is working to close this gap. In Newark, Braven supports students from humble beginnings from college to career by partnering with Rutgers University-Newark and employer partners to offer a two-part experience that begins with a credit-bearing college class followed by a post-course experience that lasts through graduation. Participants, called Fellows, emerge with the skills, experiences, confidence, and networks they need to land a strong first job and get on a path to economic freedom.
Braven’s focus is on economic mobility–not just stability–for Fellows. They work with college students who hail from humble beginnings because they have the best shot of landing in upwardly mobile careers and in turn making a significant dent in the racial and gender wealth gaps, both locally and nationally.
And, Braven Fellows are proving what’s possible, according to the 2022 Newark Jobs Report:
- In 2021, 216 Braven Fellows graduated from Rutgers University-Newark. This new class is outpacing their peers nationally in strong job attainment by 24 percentage points (69% vs 45%) within six months of graduation. (Braven defines a strong job as a full-time role that requires a bachelor’s degree and includes some combination of promotion pathways, employee benefits, and a market-competitive starting salary, or enrollment in graduate school.)
- 55% of Braven graduates nationwide are already outearning their parents in their very first job out of college. By comparison, by age 30, most Americans have a 50-50 shot of outearning their parents.
- $56,000 is the mean salary of recent Braven graduates nationwide (compared to a mean starting salary for 2019 graduates from public 4-year colleges of $53,339), and 74% of recent Braven graduates are in roles aligned with their long-term career interests
- Braven Rutgers University-Newark Fellows have achieved a 96% on-time graduation rate. Nationally, about 7 in 10 of Braven Fellows’ peers graduate college on time.
- Compared with peers nationally, Braven Rutgers University-Newark 2021 graduates were 16 percentage points (69% vs. 53%) more likely to have at least one internship during their college experience.
Of Braven Newark 2021 graduates, 92% identify as people of color, 69% come from a low-income background, and 57% are first-generation college students (and now graduates).
“New Jersey has one of the most stubborn racial wealth gaps in the US, and we are very proud of these results and the role Braven is playing to help close equity gaps in our city and state,” said Vince Marigna, Executive Director of Braven Newark. “There are so many incredibly talented young people in Newark. We’re helping them to develop their skills, networks, confidence, and experiences that enable them to maximize their full potential.”
And, Braven Fellows are grateful for classes like Braven during their undergraduate experience. “As an immigrant and first-generation college graduate (Rutgers University-Newark’s Class of 2021), I am so grateful to have had access to Braven and all of the career prep support it offered,” said Andrej Gjorgiev. “I was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do after college and what my options were, but thanks to Braven and the mentorship I received I’m now in a role where I get to pay it forward and help other students who are going through a similar experience.”
As we work to foster an equitable recovery, now more than ever, college students from humble beginnings must be prepared to compete in the modern economy. There are so many talented young people with endless potential, and organizations like Braven help them get on the path to economic mobility and the freedom it brings.