Tiffany Meertins thought she would go to law school after college. But when she took a year off after graduating from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, she found herself at a high school in southern Virginia helping students navigate the SAT-registration process and holding workshops for parents on how to fill out financial-aid forms.
Ms. Meertins was part of a program operated by her alma mater that places recent graduates in high schools with high populations of disadvantaged students or low college-going rates to work as college counselors, supplementing the efforts of school guidance counselors.
The program addresses the “information barrier” that can keep academically qualified students from seeking out financial aid, applying to selective colleges, or considering higher education at all, said Joshua S. Wyner the vice president for programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The Lansdowne, Va.-based philanthropy aims to help high-achieving students who need financial help for college.
The foundation—named for its benefactor, the owner of the Washington Redskins football team, who died in 1997—helped start the program at the University of Virginia and has now offered 10 other colleges grants of $1 million over four years to establish their own versions of the program.
The colleges receiving the new grants are: Brown University, Franklin and Marshall College, Loyola College of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Tufts University, the University of Alabama, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Missouri-Columbia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Utah.
The Virginia program, which was started three years ago, appears to be having an impact: At least one high school saw a spike of more than 20 percent in college-going rates, according to the foundation.
As for Ms. Meertins, after her experience at Halifax County High School in the 5,100-student Halifax County district, she decided not to become a lawyer after all. She’s now back at Virginia, working on a master’s degree in higher education, which she hopes will enable her to continue college counseling.
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2007 edition of Education Week