Missouri College Advising Corps works to expand statewide

Thursday, January 30, 2014 | 6:39 p.m. CST; updated 6:58 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 30, 2014

COLUMBIA — When Jared Launius applied to work for the Missouri College Advising Corps in 2012, he saw it as a temporary position while he transitioned between college and his next career move.

"I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do with my journalism degree, and I felt like this was an opportunity to spend some time doing something I believed in while I figured out what my adult life would look like," Launius said.

He said he started feeling rewarded by working with students and helping them navigate the process of going to college.

"I thought eventually the warm feeling would subside a little bit or slow down, but it really hasn't," Launius said. "I enjoy being 'Mr. Launius,' and I really didn't know I would ever say that."

Launius is one of 25 advisers in 26 schools for the Missouri College Advising Corps. The program plans to double those numbers in the next two years, executive director Beth Tankersley-Bankhead said.

The expansion will establish new partner schools in the program's current regions of St. Louis, Kansas City and south-central Missouri as well as in central, southeast and southwest Missouri.

Tankersley-Bankhead said the program likes to establish at least six schools at once in a new area and would eventually like to do this in northern Missouri.

"We know there are many students across the state who can benefit from having a full-time college adviser, so our mission is to make that service available to as many students as we can," Tankersley-Bankhead said. "Missouri has this goal, the United States has this goal, and expanding lets us do that."

To fund this expansion, the program has looked to two new sources, AmeriCorps and the state of Missouri, for grants of $524,000 and $3 million respectively. The advising corps' operating budget for the year is $1.3 million.

Tankersley-Bankhead said the program will focus more on its "persistence component," which helps students transition to college and supports them throughout to ensure they follow through on their post-high school.

The component originated in July 2013 and consists of two college transition and retention coaches who work with students at MU, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Central Missouri and Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley.

The Missouri College Advising Corps is based at MU, which is one of 10 founding institutions of the National College Advising Corps.

As "Mr. Launius," a college adviser at Winnetonka High School in North Kansas City, the 2012 MU graduate said he wears many hats. The biggest chunk of his work day is direct one-on-one advising with students researching colleges, applying to colleges and then paying for college, he said.

"I'm serving students who are more historically underserved: low-income, underrepresented minority and first-year college students in a school that's under-resourced," Launius said.

When the program's 2013 annual report by the National Student Clearing House comes in, Launius will be able to officially measure the quantitative effects of his first full year on the job.

But he knows he's made a difference.

"I hear (from teachers) that the conversation surrounding college is growing in the building," Launius said. "But this isn't anything special that I'm doing. It's the position. The average percentage point increase of students going to college with an MCAC adviser is a hair over 10 percent, which is compared to, in that same time frame, less than a 1 percent increase in schools that don't have an adviser."

Launius added, "As a lifelong Missourian and someone that wants to eventually have a family in this state, I feel like this is a program that can really, really benefit both our secondary schools and our institutions of higher education across the entire state."

The advising corps is selecting advisers. The deadline to turn in an application, which can be found on the program's website, is March 7.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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