Stacy Lightfoot, the vice president of college and career success at the Public Education Foundation, spoke to Congress on Wednesday about providing guidance and support for low income and first generation college students on their way to completing their degree of choice.
Lightfoot herself grew up in a low income, single parent home, where statistics suggest that she could have ended up in a low wage job and without a college degree.
However, Lightfoot credits the efforts of her mother and college counselor in getting her into DePauw University.
"She was my translator," she said of counselor Susan Street. "Because of the knowledge of one advocate, the trajectory of my life has changed,"
In her Congressional testimony Lightfoot used the examples of two students — one who graduated from college and one who did not — to suggest the best way to guide low income and first generation students toward a college degree.
"A lot of our low income, under represented students don't plan financially for their education and they rely on federal and state funds to do that," Lightfoot said.
During her testimony, she suggested that while students had access to information such as extracurricular activities and classes offered, they did not have sufficient data on long-term student outcomes, job placement rates, loan default rates and financial aid policies.
She also applauded efforts to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, long criticized as an over-complicated document that discourages low-income students from applying for aid.
"These data are central to helping students select the best fit institution where they are most likely to succeed and graduate," she said.
Lightfoot may know a thing or two about counseling students. In 2011, she received the national "Counselors That Change Lives" award from a national group. She also coordinates a program that brings 60 Hamilton County high school students to The University of the South for a three-day intensive college experience, including sessions with admissions experts, financial aid counseling and a taste of the college experience.
Lightfoot, a graduate from the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, received her degree in communications and theater from DePauw University.
In addition to her work in the education field, she has also served on a number of local boards, including ArtsBuild, the Chattanooga Food Bank, Chattanooga Room in the Inn, the Ronald McDonald House, the Urban League of Chattanooga and WTCI.