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N.C. College Advising Corps Boosts Rural Higher Education Enrollment

A college advising corps that exposes rural students to college opportunities and encourages those students to apply to college is having positive outcomes in rural districts, according to a story by the radio station WUNC. 

The Carolina College Advising Corps, which is run by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, expanded last year to reach more rural North Carolina students who may not have access to information or resources about college. Advisers from the program help students with financial aid, college applications, and also organize field trips to college campuses.

"Many of the students that we serve have never set foot on a college campus," Yolanda Keith, the director of the program, told WUNC. "It's either too far away physically or it's too far away mentally, they can't envision themselves on it." 

According to program data, rural high schools that use the UNC-Chapel Hill advising corps have up to an 11 percent higher postsecondary enrollment rate than rural high schools that do not participate. Recently, other universities in the state have launched similar advising corps, also aimed at rural students.

North Carolina has one of the highest percentages of rural students in the nation. Nearly 50 percent of students are rural, and rural schools in the state serve a high percentage of English-language learners. More than 8 percent of rural adults are unemployed and the rural household income is about $47, 000, which means rural "adults and students alike are encountering grave socioeconomic difficulties throughout the state," according to a report by the Rural School and Community Trust.

Nationwide, rural students are less likely to attend college than their peers and are also less likely to attend four-year, private, or selective colleges. A 2013 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found there are disparities even among rural communities. Students at low-income rural schools are less likely to attend college than their peers at high-income rural schools, and are also less likely to continue on to their second year of college.

A study released last year about rural Pennsylvania students suggested that college enrollment and completion may differ between rural and non-rural schools because "students in non-rural schools have more access than their counterparts in non-rural schools to community social resources." The study cited some research that has found certain aspects of high school, such as a "sense of school valuing and belonging" and student-teacher ratios, can influence college aspirations among rural students. 

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