Missouri College Advising Corps, headquartered at MU, Helping to Raise State of Missouri’s College-Going Rate with Individual Advising
Feb. 06, 2012
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Natasha Mills, from Kansas City, had always known that she wanted to go to college, but she had a problem — several actually — she didn’t know how to apply for financial aid, was unsure of the application process for many colleges and didn’t know which institution was the best fit for her.
Kenny Cygeirt from Bourbon, Mo. had a similar predicament. He was interested in college, especially the University of Missouri, but knew that his family couldn’t afford the tuition for a four-year, research institution. He also knew that he didn’t know much about the application process.
Today, Mills and Cygeirt are students at MU and have completed their first semesters successfully. They both say they wouldn’t be in college had it not been for the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC), a special program that places college advisers in “partner” high schools throughout rural Missouri, Kansas City and St. Louis. Currently, MCAC advisers are in 25 schools in Missouri.
“During my early years in high school, no one ever visited our schools,” Mills said. “But when we met with the adviser from the MCAC, we were able to get started on applying to colleges early. She didn’t do the work for us, but got us started on the planning process.”
Through the MCAC, headquartered at the University of Missouri, Natasha was given the necessary assistance so she could apply for financial aid, research the schools she wanted to attend and get on track for a degree in medicine. Mills just finished her first semester at MU where she “did really well,” but thinks she still could have worked a little harder; however, she knows she wouldn’t be at the state’s flagship institution without help from the corps.
Cygeirt, with the help of a very dedicated MCAC adviser, finished his senior year of high school with enough cash from scholarship offers to pay all of his tuition and expenses for college.
“If I hadn’t received these scholarships, I wouldn’t be going to school here,” said Cygeirt, who is majoring in international business and Italian. “Becca, our MCAC adviser, helped prepare me for college. She gave me details about the college process that I didn’t know. She even helped schedule a meeting with me and a professor at the MU Honors College. In previous years, students in our high school had very little guidance. Becca held a ‘senior night’ and sat down with us and our parents at a computer and reviewed everything so that we knew how to complete forms, what to expect with college applications, how to apply for housing, and anything else that I might encounter in the application process.”
This year, the number of college advisers in Missouri partner schools has grown to 24. Just last year, just 14 advisers held more than 8,700 individual advisement sessions, worked with more than 18,500 students in classroom presentations or workshops, spoke with more than 1,100 family members, held 83 campus tours, and planned 16 college fairs.
The MCAC advisers also have been a major driving force in securing more financial aid for their students. In the first academic semester of this year, MCAC advisers helped students obtain $855,288 in institution aid, and more than $2.7 million in renewable scholarships.
In 2011, Missouri’s governor issued a call that 60 percent of Missouri adults would hold a college degree by 2020. Currently, 37 percent of Missourians hold college degrees. The MCAC is working to meet the governor’s challenge by encouraging students to apply for college and helping students on an individual basis in the application process.
MCAC activities include:
- Helping students find their “best fit” postsecondary institution.
- Advising students on the application process.
- Providing students with financial aid information, including information about scholarships and grants.
- Organizing one-on-one, small group and large workshop presentations.
- Leading ACT preparation sessions.
- Organizing tours to diverse postsecondary campuses
- Scheduling campus representatives to visit students at the school
- Conducting college-planning outreach activities to students’ families
- Organizing evening and weekend financial literacy and “budgeting-for-college” workshops for students and their parents.
- Conducting early college awareness activities in 7th and 8th grade classrooms.
Before MCAC advisers began working with their students, less than 40 percent of students, on average, from those schools applied for and attended college. Now, more than 50 percent of the students are applying for and attending college. Over the same time period, the statewide increase of students going directly from high school to postsecondary education was less than 1 percent.
“If my MCAC adviser, Becca, wasn’t there, I would not have been prepared for college at all and might not have been able to attend,” Cygeirt said. “If I hadn’t been able to talk with her about college or study tips or any number of things, I would have been completely overwhelmed when I first got to campus.”
In his first semester, Cygeirt made a 3.5 GPA.
The Missouri College Advising Corps is funded primarily through private grants. Recent grants and gifts include a three-year, $457,794 grant from the Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundation and a $20,000 gift from Bank of America. Bank of America associates provide free financial literacy presentations to students in MCAC partner schools.
“The Kauffman Foundation, Bank of America and all of our sponsors have been true collaborators in MCAC,” said Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, the director of MCAC. “These organizations are invested in ensuring post-secondary educational opportunities for our youth across the state. As more students attend and graduate from college, we will experience a growth in our knowledge-based economy.
This fall, the MCAC will continue its expansion in the Kansas City area, adding Raytown South high school.
“So many of the high school students our advisers talk to don’t think that college is for them,” Tankersley-Bankhead said. “Through this program, we’re letting them know they have options, that the dream of going to college is possible. By doing this, students can believe in themselves. The bottom line is that we’re changing lives while we respond to the governor’s call.”