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Access Breeds Success for Disadvantaged Students

Betz Kerley

“Mr. Carty, I just want to go to college. My parents came to this country so I could go to college. It doesn’t matter where I go. I just want to go.”

It was not the first time Georgia College Advising Corps adviser Ryan Carty had heard this plea from a student eager to attend college, but whose family could not afford tuition and who had not been exposed to the college admissions process. Thanks to his training Carty was able to help this student, and he eventually received grants by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and was accepted into college, where he is pursuing a degree in criminal justice.

The Institute of Higher Education, in partnership with the Watson-Brown Foundation and the National College Advising Corps, began the Georgia College Advising Corps (GCAC), in 2009. Now in its 4th academic year, GCAC continues to generate success stories by working alongside guidance counselors in assisting first generation, underrepresented, and low-income students in applying and enrolling in college.

“Shoving away low expectations and helping her to succeed were goals I had for a senior girl who was ranked top of her class,” shares GCAC adviser Briane Davis. “She had great stats that any admissions office would love to see: 4.0 GPA, 25 ACT score and community service hours from her four years as lead commander in the school’s ROTC program. Coming from a single-parent home and eligible for fee waivers, I knew I had to get this girl some scholarships!” says Davis. “She has now completed three scholarship applications including the Gates Millennium Scholarship, and has applied to four schools—three of which are in-state public schools that may potentially award her great academic scholarships.”

The National College Advising Corps was founded in 2004. Schools served by the program see an 8-12 percentage point increase in college-going rates versus control schools in the same area. Advising Corps partner high schools receive an average increase of $1 million in additional scholarship dollars per school for their college-going students. Students have reported a greater awareness of higher education and what is required to attend college as a direct result of working with an NCAC adviser.

UGA and 17 other partner institutions that make up the NCAC received the 2012 National Service Impact Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The award recognizes the institutions’ commitment to providing disadvantaged high school students with resources and support to pursue higher education opportunities.

GCAC adviser Lauren Rice recalls a story. “One of the first students I met on my job site was immature, unfocused and very dependent. With a 1.8 GPA and a 12 on his first ACT, I knew it was virtually impossible to get this student into a four year school. I always remembered to check on this student until one day when he gained the maturity to check in with me on his own.

After that I could not get rid of him! He came to my office every other day for one-on-one test prep and filled out so many applications that I lost count. Now he is accepted into two out-of-state schools and his band teacher is working on getting him a band scholarship to the school of his choice. When all things seemed to work against this student, I saw the amazing happen, and I believe that all students who work hard will get into their best- fit school. Seeing is believing!”

Because of the GCAC program, advisers are able to identify students who have potential for succeeding in college. They arrange college tours for students who otherwise would have no opportunity to walk around a campus. These students are learning how to apply to colleges and how to receive financial aid. As a result, more students who deserve the opportunity to further their education are now able to attend college.

The Institute of Higher Education is currently looking for additional funding for the Georgia College Advising Corps to extend this worthwhile program through 2014 and beyond.

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