Giving Compass' Take:

• In this excerpt from The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America, Richard Whitmire shares how the College Guide Program is working to close the college counselor gap for high school students. 

• How can funders best support efforts to close this gap? What are the needs in your community? 

• Learn more about the value of college counselors

In May 2004, Nicole Hurd walked out of a meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, reached her car in the nearby Taco Bell parking lot, and turned to her University of Virginia colleagues, informing them that she had just had an epiphany.

Across Virginia, the counselor-to-student ratio was 1 to 369. And in other parts of the country, it was even more dismal. “My jaw hit the ground. I knew it was bad, but there was something about that number that was really obtuse. And that’s not even the worst [ratio] in the country.” The next slide she saw showed that 79 percent of Virginians graduate from high school on schedule, but only 53 percent of those were going to college. “While I was aware of the gaps in opportunity for all students, there was something about the data I saw that day that my reaction was: ‘You have got to be kidding me!’”

All that led to the Taco Bell parking lot epiphany. Hurd had seen scores of UVA graduates head into Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Wouldn’t those same idealistic graduates sign up for a college counseling fellowship akin to TFA? That night she wrote an email to her boss at the university: What if we put our recent college graduates into low-income or under-resourced high schools across Virginia and got more students into higher education and, hopefully, complete it? Her boss’s response: Let’s do it.

When Hurd and her colleagues pitched the foundation for funding, they agreed and she received a $623,000 grant for a two-year pilot for what was then called the College Guide Program.

The pilot proved itself worthy, and in 2007, with grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education, it went national with a new name, College Advising Corps. Now located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as of 2018, the corps had more than 700 advisers in 15 states, working in 670 schools. From 2005 to 2016, it served more than 848,000 students in high schools across America.

Read the full article about the College Guide Program by Richard Whitmire at The 74.