MU receives $1 million to create college advising corps

March 21, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation today awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Missouri-Columbia as part of a nationwide initiative to significantly increase college enrollment and graduation among high-ability, low-income high school students and to encourage community college students to continue their studies toward completion of bachelor's degrees. The program will encourage greater attendance at all four-year colleges and universities in Missouri, including MU.

With the grant, MU will create the Missouri College Advising Corps. Following the tradition of the AmeriCorps and Teach for America programs, the Missouri College Advising Corps will recruit and train MU seniors to work full time as high school and community college advisers for one to two years after graduation. These advisers will guide students on how to prepare themselves for college admission, how to choose a college that matches their interests, and how to complete admissions and financial aid applications. The advisers also will provide parents with information they need to encourage and support their children's pursuit of a college degree. Those working in the community colleges will help ensure that disadvantaged students take the courses they need to continue their educations at four-year institutions around the state.

MU's program will provide one-on-one college advising to 2,700 students in eight Missouri high schools and three Missouri community colleges. It will provide information and counseling in group settings to an additional 9,150 students. MU will work with superintendents and high school administrators to identify which Missouri high schools will host college advisers. The program will be targeted at rural and urban high schools that do not have Missouri A+ School designation and that fall below the state average in the percentage of their graduates who go to college. Community colleges in the geographic regions of the selected high schools also will likely be targeted for the program.

"As Missouri's flagship and land-grant university, MU must play a leadership role in encouraging Missourians to pursue higher education," said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. "This program will ensure that more students receive the information and counseling they need to pursue their careers and educational aspirations."

According to data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, fewer than 24 percent of graduates from city public schools in St. Louis and Kansas City attend four-year institutions, and fewer than 40 percent of graduates from rural areas attend two- or four-year institutions. In 2005, fewer than 5 percent of students at Missouri two-year colleges transferred to public four-year schools, according to statistics from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

"We are squandering a huge national resource when millions of America's best high school graduates never get to college, or fail to advance beyond a two-year community college program," said Foundation Executive Director Matthew J. Quinn. "Our Foundation is committed to addressing the college enrollment gap by providing crucial information to promising students facing financial barriers."

Advisers in the Missouri College Advising Corps will demonstrate from their own college successes that disadvantaged background, sneers from peers and lack of family precedent need not be barriers to a bachelor's degree, said Jeffrey R. Williams, director of access and urban outreach at MU. They also will help students see that college can be financially accessible through scholarship and loan opportunities.

"The Missouri College Advising Corps will enable high achieving, low-income students and their families to see college as an attainable goal. I look forward to playing a role in making this happen," said Williams, who is program director of the Missouri College Advising Corps.

MU's program will be based on the successful model devised by the University of Virginia. The "College Guide" program developed at the University of Virginia recently expanded from high schools to community colleges, a move supported by Cooke Foundation-funded research that underscores the importance of personal transfer counseling for low-income students at community colleges.

"The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's desire to facilitate transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions highlights the important role community colleges play in baccalaureate attainment. We are pleased to be part of a program that spotlights this community college role," said Barbara Townsend, professor of higher education in MU's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and co-program director of the Missouri College Advising Corps.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke. Its mission is to help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education. It focuses in particular on students with financial need. The Foundation's programs include scholarships to undergraduate, graduate and high school students, and grants to organizations that serve high-achieving students with financial aid.

MU was one of only 10 flagship and selective colleges and universities given grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to develop a college advising program. Other grant recipients are Brown University; Franklin and Marshall College; Loyola College in Maryland; Pennsylvania State University; Tufts University; the University of Alabama; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Utah.

"This is an important initiative because it gives us an opportunity to reach out to high achieving students at high schools and community colleges who might not normally consider college as an option. We believe that having advisers to support and assist these students will encourage them to continue their education," said MU Provost Brian Foster.

As director of the Missouri College Advising Corps, Williams will report to Vice Provost Ann Korschgen in MU's Division of Enrollment Management.

University of Missouri-Columbia

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