Many low income students are qualified to pursue higher education, but they do not attend college because they are not expected to do so or lack information about the process, said Amir Farokhi, Law '04, chief operating officer of the Advising Corps.
“Despite the criticism of the value of a college degree—there is no greater ticket to social mobility than a bachelor's degree,” he said.
Based in Chapel Hill, the Advising Corps is a national nonprofit organization that places recent college graduates as full-time college advisors in schools across the country in order to increase the number of low-income, first-generation applicants who enroll in college. As the the 24th school to partner with the Advising Corps, Duke, along with North Carolina State University and Davidson College, will begin providing college counselors to high schools in poorer areas of rural North Carolina.
An inadequate number of counselors serve high school students, with a ratio of approximately 450 students per every advisor, Farokhi said. On average, this amounts to about 20 minutes of advising per year for each student.
“The college process itself is very intimidating and confusing,” he added. “We are trying to demystify that in order to ensure that every student in America has the opportunity to apply for and access higher education.”
This Fall, Duke plans to send between five and 10 college advisors from the graduating class of 2014. The students will be trained by Duke admissions officials as well as people from other institutions. Farokhi noted that working in those high schools would be a powerful experience for the potential advisors as they explore career options after graduation.
“We are very excited about Duke as a partner,” he said. “There is so much talent there, and it is another opportunity for amazing people to give back to the community and make sure that every student has a chance to attend a school like Duke.”
Eric Mlyn, assistant vice provost for civic engagement and executive director of DukeEngage, said the program is perfectly consistent with Duke’s goal of using knowledge in the service of society. He added that the initiative will also foster a conversation among students, faculty and administrators about the question of college access—who goes, who pays and how to level the playing field as much as possible.
“This will involve Duke in one of the most central policy issues of our time,” he said. “Inequality is seen as one of the most vexing public policy issues, and having Duke bring its resources to bear on college access is vitally important.”
A $10 million grant from the John M. Belk Endowment to the Advising Corps funded the partnership with Davidson, Duke and N.C. State. The foundation aims to increase opportunities for low-income students by improving the relationships between high school and postsecondary institutions.