A new program based at the USC Rossier School of Education places recent Trojan graduates in local high schools to increase college enrollment and completion among underrepresented students.
California currently ranks last in the nation in school counselor-to-student ratio, averaging just one counselor for every 945 students. In response to this deficit in college guidance, the Southern California College Advising Corps (SCCAC) was launched in the fall of 2013 to provide underserved high schools in the region with full-time college advisers to improve college outcomes for low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students.
In the less than six months since its start, SCCAC advisers have already served more than 6,600 high school students and provided direct one-on-one or small group college advising to more than 2,000 high school students.
The advisers serve as open-access resources to all students in their schools, and they actively assist students with their college searches, applications and financial aid on the road to postsecondary education.
“California students lack adequate access to college guidance, and this is especially detrimental for students who are less likely than their more affluent peers to have friends or family members who have navigated the college process,” said Jerry Lucido, executive director of the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice (CERPP) at USC Rossier, which houses SCCAC.
“This program responds to this critical need for guidance by placing passionate, high-quality college advisers in our most underserved high schools.”
Advisers get professional training
SCCAC is a “near-peer” mentoring model, recruiting recent college graduates as advisers whose backgrounds are similar to the high school students they serve. Advisers are also selected based on their work with youth and families from diverse backgrounds and a demonstrated commitment to public service.
Before being placed full-time in a high school, advisers undergo four weeks of intensive professional training in college advising run by CERPP. Three recent USC graduates were hired as SCCAC advisers in the Garden Grove Unified School District for the 2013-14 academic year.
Jessica Garcia ’13, who graduated from USC as a first-generation college student herself, said she has found the students at Santiago High School extremely receptive to her help with their college plans.
“I’ve found most students do want to go to college, but a large number of them are very confused about the entire process,” she said. “This work is so important because these students’ futures are at stake.”
Garcia recounted an especially rewarding experience when she helped a student with a speech impediment draft her personal statements to colleges.
“She boldly discussed her speech impediment, how it impacted her social life and how she has worked toward spreading awareness about the issue by visiting classrooms and presenting on the topic,” Garcia said. “She has already been accepted by a few CSUs and is waiting to hear back from the UCs, and I’m confident that she will get in and be a huge asset to whichever school she decides to attend.”
In its first year, the USC program is supported by a seed grant from the national nonprofit College Advising Corps, which launched in 2004 and has placed advisers from 23 colleges and universities in 423 high schools across the country.
SCCAC aims to expand to 16 advisers for the 2014-15 academic year and is seeking district and philanthropic partners to ensure that more high-need California students are attending and completing college.
A recent Stanford University study found that high schools partnering with the College Advising Corps program see an 8-to-12 percentage point increase in college-going rates and an average increase of $1 million in scholarship support for their college-going students.
In addition, students served by the College Advising Corps are 42 percent more likely to apply to a college or university; 67 percent more likely to be accepted to college; 84 percent more likely to get accepted to a four-year institution; and 63 percent more likely to be accepted to more than one institution.
For information on SCCAC, how to become an adviser or how to bring an adviser to your school, contact Emily Chung at 213-740-7401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on how to support the program, contact Lisa Shapiro, director of foundation relations for USC Rossier, at (213) 740-5080 or email@example.com.