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Dec. 10, 2009 Volume 31, No. 15

MU programs work to improve college access

Matter of degree

Making higher education part of the picture

Less than a quarter of Missouri residents have attended college. Twenty percent of the people who do go don’t graduate. Two MU programs are reaching out to prospective students across the state, encouraging low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students to attend college.

MU Access Initiatives work to change the mindset of many students who might not believe a college education is attainable. Simultaneously, the College Advising Corps provides advising and encouragement throughout the college admissions process. The Corps employs MU graduates who work full time as guides to high school and community college students across Missouri.

“Having a college degree should be an option for all Missourians,” says Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management at Mizzou and a first-generation college graduate. “One of our high priorities at MU is to ensure that students be made aware of that opportunity through the extraordinary access programs that we offer.”

DeAngela Burns-Wallace, the director of Access Initiatives, knows first-hand the challenges of aspiring to higher education as a first-generation college student from Kansas City. Her parents encouraged her to go to college, but they weren’t familiar with the required processes.

Burns-Wallace’s plans for Access Initiatives will help more students across the state realize the feasibility of higher education and explore the options available to them, instead of relying on informal networks to help them through the college application process.

“We are trying to create a college-going atmosphere across the state,” Burns-Wallace says. “As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we are a major player because of the resources and programs we have available to aspiring students.”

She hopes to replicate and strengthen existing partnerships, like those with the Kauffman Scholars, a multi-year program that helps Kansas City students prepare for higher education. Access Initiatives will be a supplement to existing programs and will provide resources to increase the reach of these programs. Burns-Wallace also sees a need for programs to continue helping and motivating these students once they begin their higher education careers.

Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, the executive director of Missouri College Advising Corps, also was a first-generation college student. She grew up in the rural town of Versailles, Mo., where she didn’t have much exposure to higher education options.

“Being a first-generation student, I remember that certain college application processes were overwhelming,” Tankersley-Bankhead says. “I just felt lost, and my family members, though not intending to be, weren’t completely supportive because they didn’t understand the value of a college education.”

The Missouri College Advising Corps helps Missouri students realize that higher education is an attainable goal by providing information about the application process and mentoring students.