Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday announced the launch of a $2.4 million advising program that will put additional college counselors into 30 public high schools across the state in the fall.
Counselors will work with about 10,000 juniors and seniors statewide, according to Haslam’s office. The counselors’ goal will be to help students enroll in the college where they will be most likely to succeed, with options including technical colleges, community colleges or universities.
In the statement announcing the program, called Advise TN, Haslam said it was the natural extension of other Drive to 55 initiatives such as Tennessee Promise, which offers high school students a tuition-free ticket to community college.
“Research tells us that having a school-wide culture of college-going — of students knowing that college isn’t only an option for them but it’s an expectation — is one of the best indicators of whether students will pursue higher education,” Haslam said. “This program will provide schools across the state with one more adult in students’ lives, focused on helping them navigate the transition from high school to college.”
To be eligible, participating high schools must have average college-going rates that fall below the three-year state average of 58.8 percent. Public high schools must apply to participate and will be selected by the Tennessee Higher Education Committee based on their commitment to creating a college-going culture.
Mike Krause, executive director of Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign to boost the number of Tennesseans with higher education credentials, said taking a local, schools-based approach could help tackle longstanding problems surrounding college literacy and preparedness that have dogged some public high schools.
“We’re going to hone our resources and focus on the areas that are already lagging,” said Mike Krause, executive director of Haslam’s Drive to 55 campaign to boost the number of Tennesseans with higher education credentials.”You really just have to have someone who’s boots on the ground there, and that’s what these advisers are going to be. They’re going to know the students.”
The counselors hired through Advise TN will help students prepare for the ACT in their junior years and work on college applications and Free Application for Federal Student Aid as seniors. Counselors will continue to work with students during the summer after their high school graduation to ensure that they follow through on their college plans.
Advise TN was included in Haslam’s 2016-17 budget with funding of $2,455,800. High schools selected to participate will have an Advise TN counselor for three years, and will be required to foot some of the bill for that counselor’s pay.
Advise TN counselors will be hired and trained in the summer, according to state documents. When they are embedded in the high schools, they will supplement the work done by existing school counselors, teachers and others.
Troy Grant, a higher education commission staff member who will be working with the advisers, said he wants the advisers to be successful college graduates who come from the kinds of communities they will be serving, where college isn’t a foregone conclusion.
“We’re really looking for people who can inspire and motivate students,” Grant said.
Grant added that the addition of a staff member who is completely focused on college would be a boon to many high schools, where counselors often have to divide their time between college planning and other priorities.
“Schools are being asked to do a lot of things right now and (college preparation) is just one of them,” he said. The advisers will be “someone in the school that every day of the week will be focused on making sure students are working on (the college) transition.”
The higher education commission will announce participating high schools in September, with advisers scheduled to begin their work in schools in October.
Reach Adam Tamburin at 615-726-5986 and on Twitter @tamburintweets.