A new effort is underway to fortify the high school to college pipeline for students in St. Louis Public Schools.
The St. Louis Public Schools Foundation, the fundraising partner for the district, wants to raise $2 million to hire eight counselors over the next three years to focus on college readiness. These counselors would serve students at all 15 of the district’s high schools. The highly regarded Metro Academic and Classical High School already has a counselor specifically focused on college readiness.
“We owe it to our students to give them the best possible resources so that they can make fantastic choices about their future,” said Jane Donahue, president of the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation.
The counselors will plug into an effort to reach seven specific goals.
- Increase post-secondary placements by 5 percent
- Ensure that 80 percent of students go to college fairs or on college visits
- Increase the percentage of students who enroll in four-year colleges by 10 percent at schools with college specialists.
- Increase the percentage of students who complete an application for federal student aid.
- Increase the percentage of students who submit at least one college or postsecondary application by Feb. 1 of the school year.
- Over the next three years, reduce by 20 percent the number of SLPS graduates who need to enroll in developmental math courses.
- Increase counselors’ knowledge of issues related to college persistence.
Donahue said the hope is to have $200,000 in the coming months to start hiring three college specialists by the start of next school year.
More than 80 percent of students in the district are African American, and almost 90 percent of all students qualify for federally subsidized lunches. For many, the unrest following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 highlights the need to ensure that African-American students, especially those who are low income, have equal access to college and career training.
“The kids in our school system are very similar to kids at Normandy or Jennings,” Donahue said. “They are kids with a lot of potential but have not had everything in place to pursue what they want to do.”
The college counselors will also help students as they make the transition from middle school to high school. Donahue said the ultimate goal is for the effort to dovetail with similar projects to ramp up the number of people with college degrees in the St. Louis region.