Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Programs provide remote counseling to encourage and help rural students get to college

It's well-known that rural high-school graduates are less likely to go to college than their suburban and urban counterparts. One reason: If their parents didn't go to college and their high school doesn't have a college adviser, they may not know how to make it happen, or be comfortable with the idea.

So, a program called College Possible is trying a novel way to help rural high-school grads go to college: the internet. The St, Paul-based nonprofit has helped urban students get into college for years, but three years ago began the Navigate program, which pairs "high-achieving rural students in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon with coaches to guide them virtually through the application process," Stevie Friess reports for The Hechinger Report, a nonpartisan education publication. The coaches are recent college graduates fulfilling AmeriCorps service.

Cayanne Korder of Red Wing, Minn., participated in the program. She always wanted to go to college, but didn't know how to go about it. "From her office in St. Paul, Korder’s coach, Addy Steffens, provided ACT prep materials that Korder credits with boosting her test score by about 6 points, to an impressive 33," Friess reports. "Steffens reviewed drafts of Korder’s application essays, walked her through the completion of the Common Application and let her vent about academic and personal angst. Through monthly calls and countless texts and emails in between, they also researched schools and financial aid prospects together. The outcome: Korder heads this fall to Emory University on a full scholarship."

The program provides the kind of individualized help many public school students rarely have access to. "Nationwide, school counselors are overworked and underfunded, serving a median of 482 students each, nearly twice the 250-to-1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association," Friess reports.

Navigate isn't the only such program. College Advising Corps will debut this fall at two rural Texas high schools. And CollegePoint, a program that provides funding to College Possible and College Advising Corps, provides virtual counselling to 19,000 students nationwide with top test scores and a household income of less than $80,000. About a third of CollegePoint's students are rural.

The programs are untested and reach only a small share of rural students, "but their backers say that if they prove successful, they could expand to help lift the prospects of more teens from rural communities who, despite graduating high school at higher rates and earning better overall test scores than their urban and suburban counterparts, remain less likely to attend college," Friess reports.

Only 29 percent of 18-24-year-olds from rural areas are enrolled in higher education, compared to the national average of 42%. 

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