College is increasingly important for employment at a living wage. However, low-income students and those whose parents did not graduate from college are less likely than their higher-income peers to enroll in (and finish) college. Reasons for this include family, peer, and school expectations, financial constraints, and a lack of information, particularly in low-resource schools where a single guidance counselor or college adviser may serve hundreds of students. Given the low odds of getting time with an adviser, students miss financial aid and application deadlines. Here’s one organization that provides college advisers to underserved high schools.
What It Does
College Advising Corps (CAC) recruits and places recent college graduates who act as dedicated college advisers in low-resource schools. It is the largest college access program in the U.S., serving 646 high schools in 14 states, plus online advising. The program provides students with individual support and helps build peer, family, and school-wide expectations around attending college–both of which are critical components to getting more kids to apply in the first place. Advisers are integrated into the schools, working with students on the application and financial aid process, as well as coordinating with teachers, counselors and administrators to publicize events and services and integrate college preparation and applications into the syllabus.
CAC is housed at 25 partner colleges and universities, which recruit and train graduates to serve a two-year term as an adviser. The partner universities also fundraise for the program, and help with the administrative aspects of hiring and compensation through their HR departments. Adviser salaries are paid through the federal AmeriCorps program and some district funding, which brings down the cost to CAC and to partner colleges.
How Effective Is It
Several independent studies showed that students in CAC schools are 37% more likely to apply to college than similar students in non-CAC schools, and were about 10% more likely to receive scholarships. An average of 11 more students in each high school attended college as a result of the program. Note that these differences apply to the whole school, not just the students who met with an adviser.
When we calculate the cost per impact, it costs about $5,700 for a student to attend college who would not have otherwise. Considering that full-time workers with even some college earn over $3,300 more per year than those with a high school diploma, this investment pays off substantially—and quickly.
How You Can Help
The CAC program costs an average of $172 per student. AmeriCorps covers 13% of costs, about $22 per student. The other $150 comes mostly from philanthropy, which augments adviser stipends and benefits and covers costs such as training, travel, background checks, and professional development. There are two ways donors can help: giving to a local, college-based site or to the national office. At local sites, colleges and universities rely on philanthropy to help them cover costs of recruiting (information sessions, staff, etc.) and HR administration. To find a college or university partner program to support, visit https://advisingcorps.org/our-work/where-we-work/.
Donors can also support the national office, whose expenses include overseeing implementation and evaluation, finding new sites and starting programs, and designing and implementing innovative pilot programs like online advising. To donate, visit https://advisingcorps.org/get-involved.
Personalize This Project
There are other college advising programs that help students get to and through college, though at a smaller scale. College Possible and uAspire, for example, work with students to navigate all phases of the application and enrollment process and track students through college. Peer Forward trains high school leaders to motivate their fellow students to apply to and attend college.
* An earlier version of this web page misstated the name of this organization as College Advisory Corps. We regret the error.