CHARLOTTE — A $10 million gift aims to improve college advising at North Carolina high schools, where recent college graduates help low-income students find their way to higher education.
The gift, announced Thursday by the Charlotte-based John M. Belk Endowment, will go to the College Advising Corps, a Chapel Hill nonprofit that hires recent college graduates to work in high schools in North Carolina and 14 other states. The advisers focus exclusively on helping high school seniors navigate the confusing process of applying for college and financial aid. They work to supplement the work of high school guidance counselors who are often overburdened.
This past school year, 106 advisers worked in 127 schools in North Carolina.
College Advising Corps counselors are assigned to several area high schools in and around Greensboro. These schools include Dudley and Smith in Greensboro, Andrews and Central in High Point and five campuses in Rockingham County: Morehead, Reidsville, Rockingham County, McMichael and the Rockingham County Early College.
Other area high schools served by College Advising Corps counselors are Thomasville and Lexington in Davidson County, West and South Stokes in Stokes County, and North Surry, East Surry, Surry Central, Surry Early College, Elkin and Mount Airy in Surry County.
The advisers are graduates of four colleges that have joined forces with the corps — Davidson College, Duke University, N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Nicole Hurd, founder and CEO of the Chapel Hill-based College Advising Corps, said the gift will help establish a "prosperity zone" in North Carolina, where the organization will focus to increase college attainment in that area. The idea is to reach every student there through advising and create partnerships with business and higher education.
"We believe every student in North Carolina deserves a post-secondary opportunity," Hurd said Thursday, adding, "We have so many students who are ready for a four-year school who don't think they can do it."
Another push for the program will be launching a Parent Academy, a text messaging initiative, in partner high schools for better communication with parents about the college admissions process. "The number one thing we can do to move the needle is to engage parents," Hurd said.
Students who met with a College Advising Corps adviser were 30 percent more likely to apply to college and were 27 percent more likely to fill out federal financial aid forms.
Additionally, the nonprofit also wants to study its outcomes, to gather data on what's working in the program. Hurd said statewide adoption of the advising program is the ultimate goal.
Nationally, the College Advising Corps will place 617 advisers in 640 high schools next year. The nonprofit also provides virtual advising to some 10,000 students who don't have access to an adviser in their schools.
The new gift is the second such donation from the endowment, which gave $10 million to the nonprofit in 2014. The endowment's mission is to increase educational opportunities to meet North Carolina's workforce needs. It recently announced its goal to help ensure that by 2025, 60 percent of North Carolinians will have a degree, certificate or training credential.