College prep

Alums will advise low-income students on admissions process

Tufts University is one of 10 U.S. colleges and universities to receive $1 million grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for initiatives aimed at increasing college enrollment and graduation among low-income high school and community college students.

Following in the tradition of the AmeriCorps and Teach for America programs, the College Advising Corps initiative will recruit and train college seniors to work full-time as advisers for one or two years following graduation. The 10 programs will provide support for high school students in lower-income neighborhoods to help them apply to a wide range of postsecondary institutions that fit their individual academic profiles, career goals and personal circumstances. The program is based on a successful model created by the University of Virginia and funded by a lead grant from the foundation.

The Tufts initiative, which will be led by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and the Massachusetts Campus Compact, will develop a college-advising program to increase enrollment rates of high-achieving, low-income high school students. The program will pay 45 Tufts graduates to provide one-on-one advising to 2,250 students over four years and serve an additional 6,010 students in group settings throughout the state. The Massachusetts Campus Compact, a network of colleges that promotes civic engagement in higher education, has been based at Tufts since 1995.

The College Advising Corps initiative seeks to combat staggering rates of college-qualified, low-income high school graduates who fail to earn undergraduate degrees. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that four million potential college degree recipients—all academically prepared, lower-income students—have been “lost” during the past two decades.

“We are squandering a huge national resource when millions of America’s best high school graduates never get to college or fail to advance beyond a two-year community college program,” foundation Executive Director Matthew J. Quinn said. “Our foundation is committed to addressing the college enrollment gap by providing crucial information to promising students facing financial barriers.”

Lack of information about the admissions process and financial aid is a significant barrier to college for low-income students, who are much less likely than their counterparts in wealthier communities to have access to SAT preparation courses, college application guidance and information about financial aid. On average, there is only one high school counselor for every 488 American public high school students.

In addition to Tufts, the grant recipients are Brown University, Franklin & Marshall College, Loyola College in Maryland, Pennsylvania State 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.

This story ran in the Tufts Journal in April 2007.