October 6, 2022

College reputation. Show-Me State Counselors work with local high school students to help them plan a path forward

On a recent visit to Hollister, Missouri, I attended an event at a local high school called Graduation Day, where hundreds of students, families, and community leaders gathered to celebrate senior life after graduation. . Graduating students proudly know whether to enroll in college or university, seek vocational training, or join the military. It is a day of happiness for families, communities and the entire state. After all, when students have a solid plan for lifelong success, everyone benefits. [READ: Which states invest the most in their students? ]
Today, with the increasing number of jobs that require high school education and training, few students leave high school with a clear path forward. This has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows undergraduate enrollment across the country continues to decline — and it could get worse. Already, the number of out-of-school students has dropped by nearly 1.4 million during the pandemic. The problem mostly affects community colleges, where many rural students — who have long faced unique barriers to college and job opportunities — enroll. Also, the job market did not offer this group of students a better alternative. Youth unemployment has risen by nearly 30% during the pandemic, with nearly 5 million 16- to 24-year-olds neither working nor attending school in 2020. As national and state education and service leaders look for solutions, Missouri – where I serve as the commissioner of education – can provide the blueprint for success. Through an expanding system that places academic experts and career counselors in high schools, Show-Me State is not only trying to challenge national trends in college enrollment and careers, but also to change them. The initiative, called rootEd Missouri, is a partnership between the state Department of Education, Ozarks Technical Community College and the national service organization RootEd Alliance.

Started in 2018, rootEd Alliance and local agencies to fund, train, and place educational experts and career counselors in rural high schools in different states. These counselors work with school counselors to ensure that each student has a strong plan for success after graduation and the resources, such as financial aid, to realize that plan.

In 2021, schools with rootEd Alliance advisors saw college enrollment rates increase by an average of 10.5% over the year before root. In Missouri specifically, this rate increased from 7.5% at all participating schools and up to 14% at some sites. In addition, one-third of college students at rootEd schools recently said they would not go to college without their guidance. rootEd Alliance began its work in Missouri with a pilot program in eight schools. Because of its success, Missouri is expanding the program statewide. In fall 2021, the state announced plans to expand the program to at least 135 more rural high schools using federal grants. Earlier this year, the state legislature and governor of Missouri. Mike Parson committed $9 million in capital funding to keep it growing.

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Disseminating this type of proven advice is more important now than ever, as the widespread impact of this disease on education and the workforce continues. And support every student, regardless of their background or ZIP code, should.

Missouri has found dedicated college counseling and services, when implemented thoughtfully and intentionally, to be a viable solution to helping alleviate the high school dropouts that plague the nation. And as we salute the Class of 2022 at this year’s Decision Day event, efforts should be made to put students on a path to success.

These same efforts should be expanded. We encourage other states to join us.

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