College & Workforce Readiness

Tenn. to Send More Counselors to Schools With Low College-Going Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — May 26, 2016 2 min read
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In a bid to increase college-going, especially among low-income students, Tennessee is going to spend $2.4 million to send extra counselors to 30 high schools with low college-enrollment rates.

Gov. Bill Haslam announced the program, Advise TN, last week. The three-year program, which begins in the fall, will reach a projected 10,000 juniors and seniors, according to reports in Chalkbeat and the Tennessean. The new initiative fits into other work Tennessee has been doing to boost college-going through its Drive to 55 campaign, which aims to raise the proportion of Tennessee residents with postsecondary degrees or credentials to 55 percent by 2025.

After being trained this summer, the new counselors will focus solely on college advising, joining the existing counseling staff that will continue its normal duties. The new additions will help students prepare for the ACT in their junior years and work on college applications and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as seniors, the Tennessean reported. They’ll stick with students through the summer after graduation, too, to make sure they actually enroll in college.

Public high schools must apply to have a shot at participating in the program, according to the Tennessean, and pay part of the cost of their new counselors. They must have a commitment to a college-going culture, and an average college-enrollment rate below the state’s three-year average of 58.8 percent. The Tennessee Higher Education Committee will choose which high schools will be part of the program.

The 30 schools represent only about 6 percent of the state’s high schools, Chalkbeat said. Forty of the state’s 97 counties had college-enrollment rates below the state average in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, according to Chalkbeat.

Frustrated by persistent problems with low college awareness and preparedness, the state decided to take what a top Haslam aide called a “boots on the ground” approach to improving college-going rates.

“We’re going to hone our resources and focus on the areas that are already lagging,” Mike Krause, the executive director of Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign, told the Tennessean. “You really just have to have someone who’s boots on the ground there, and that’s what these advisers are going to be. They’re going to know the students.”

The higher education commission will announce participating high schools in September, with advisers scheduled to begin their work in schools in October.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.