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FHS launches new college advising program

Franklin High School is just one of several schools across Western North Carolina to be able to offer students additional support when learning how to prepare for and succeed in college — and beyond — thanks to support provided by college advisers in Appalachian State University’s College Advising Corps (CAC).

Tiffany Patterson was assigned to work at Franklin High School through a grant-funded position and partnership with App State. App State launched the CAC program during the 2019–20 academic year, which joins a national college advisor program in the United States. The program recruits and trains recent college graduates like Patterson, who graduated from App state with a Major in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice, to serve as full-time college advisers in partner high schools throughout underserved schools in Western North Carolina.

“I had a rough upbringing and coming from a low-income family, I know that college isn’t feasible for everyone,” said Patterson. “Because I know first-hand the struggles so many seniors face, I wanted to become a college advisor to help students succeed after high school.”

Nationally, the student-to-counselor ratio is over 482:1, leaving many students with as little as 20 minutes a year with a college counselor. High-need students often lack the guidance and support they need to prepare for college, apply to best-fit schools and for financial aid, enroll, and graduate.

Patterson has met with more than 20 percent of the senior class at Franklin High School and has set the goal of meeting with 100 percent of seniors before the year’s end. She wants to make sure that students have someone to just have a conversation with about plans for after high school.

“Not everyone has someone at home or someone in their life to talk to them about the next steps,” said Patterson. “It doesn’t matter if that means going into the workforce, or applying for college, or looking at a trade program, I just want to be a person that can help answer those questions and point them in the right direction.”

Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove noted that the partnership will help ensure students across the county have better access to information – especially in a time where college may be uncertain due to the pandemic.

“Macon County Schools is very fortunate to have been the recipient of a grant partnering

Franklin High School with Appalachian State University,” said Breedlove. “This grant allows an ASU senior intern to assist the FHS guidance office to help seniors navigate through the difficult postsecondary planning and college application process. We are truly grateful for the benefits these seniors will be getting from this additional information at one of the most important decision-making times in their lives.”

In today’s economy, postsecondary education has become the single most important step that many young people can take to boost economic mobility and transform lives, communities, and the nation at large. Nevertheless, too many students are not applying to college. The socioeconomic enrollment gap is a major challenge for our nation. Studies show high-income students are 16% more likely to enroll in colleges than equally qualified low-income students. In fact, 25% of low-income students who score in the top quartile on standardized tests never go to college.

Patterson said that at Franklin High School, she believes just getting students to apply for the FASFA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid.

“FHS has a historically low application rate for the FASFA,” said Patterson. “My goal is to improve that because that is often the first step in planning for college. It helps to see where you stand and what grants or assistance might be available.”

From October 2019 to the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, six Appalachian graduates served as CAC advisers, providing support for more than 1,000 seniors in six Western North Carolina high schools. The advisers helped these seniors secure more than $4 million in institutional aid and scholarships.

“As members of a national movement, Appalachian State University College Advising Corps college advisers help students in rural, underserved Appalachian communities realize their dreams of achieving postsecondary education,” said Dr. James Beeler, senior director of App State’s College Access Partnerships, which oversees the university’s CAC program.

Patterson said that while she is located at Franklin High School, she has worked with other schools such as Union Academy to organize seminars for submitting college applications and filing at FASFA.

“We are excited to have Ms. Patterson join our staff here at Franklin High School,” said Barry Woody, Principal of Franklin High School. “Ms. Patterson will be immersed in our high school and will be available to guide students through the college admission process and also help with the financial component (FAFSA). We hope with Ms. Patterson’s guidance more of our students will be better prepared for a post-secondary life in college, military, or the workforce.”

North Carolina’s annual campaign to support college access is during the month of October and is named NC Countdown to College. Activities during the month support high school seniors in completing three important college enrollment steps: residency, FAFSA, and applications. What is traditionally called College Application Week has been extended to two weeks this year: October 19 – 30th, 2020. During these weeks, many NC colleges and universities waive their application fees.

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