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National 'College Advising Corps' Initiative Announced by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation



LANSDOWNE, VA - In the past quarter-century, the gap in college enrollment between low-income and high-income students has grown substantially, resulting in greater inequality in college participation, even among the nation's highest performing students. To address this imbalance, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation today announced the opportunity for eight U.S. selective colleges or universities to receive grants of $1 million each to create "College Advising Corps" in their states.

The "Corps" will train recent college graduates to serve as college counselors or "guides" for low-income high school and community college students, particularly those who would be the first in their families to obtain a bachelor's degree. The program builds upon the successful "College Guide" program at the University of Virginia, which the Foundation has funded for the past two years.

The Foundation has invited approximately 175 state flagship institutions and selective private universities to apply for the grants. The young mentors will assist low-income high school seniors and community college students in their states or regions with the steps needed to apply for college admission and financial aid.

"Many of the nation's best and brightest students still don't reach their dreams of attending college," said Mathew J. Quinn, the Foundation's executive director. "The inequality still exists even among the top high-school students. Nearly one-quarter of low-income students who score in the top quartile on standardized tests never go to college, and many of the remaining 75 percent never attain bachelors' degrees."

Quinn noted that in addition to financial challenges, studies indicate that lack of information and individualized counseling about how to apply for college admission and financial aid are also significant barriers preventing students from entering higher education. That is the challenge that the College Advising Corps will address.

In May, the Foundation renewed its grant to the U.Va. College Guide Program, which was designed to increase postsecondary attendance for students in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The program, which began in the fall of 2005, was the first of its kind nationally. That first year U.Va. placed 14 college guides in communities across Virginia where college-going rates were below the state average. The Foundation has supported the Guide Program with $1,087,300 over four years.

"We're very excited about our results this first year and grateful for the Foundation's continued support," said Nicole Farmer Hurd, Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence at U.Va.

"The guides worked in high schools full-time during the school year with a sole purpose - helping students plan for and complete the college application process," Quinn said. "Among signs that the program works are the notable increases in applications to the College of William & Mary, George Mason University, and U.Va. from the high schools where the guides worked."

Based on its initial success, the U.Va. program will expand in the 2006-07 school year to include 23 guides, with three assigned to work in community colleges to counsel students interested in transferring to four-year institutions.

The Foundation seeks proposals for the College Advising Corps that are similar to the U.Va. model, although they need not be identical. Key aspects of the U.Va. program include:

  • Employing and training highly talented and energetic recent college graduates.
  • Providing one-on-one assistance to thousands of students and their parents.
  • Ensuring a statewide fundraising base to develop long-term program sustainability.
  • Conducting a robust statewide evaluation effort to demonstrate that the investment in these services raises the college-going rates of students served.

Proposals are due from the colleges by October 2, 2006, with the awards to be issued in early 2007.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation established in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke 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 need. 






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