KSDE Weekly

Standards and Instruction

Program places college grads in Kansas high schools to help students navigate postsecondary options

Program places college grads in Kansas high schools to help students navigate postsecondary options

A program that aims to increase the number of first-generation, lower-income and underrepresented high school students who pursue postsecondary plans isn’t just impacting the lives of students, it is also helping adults from across the state determine their career paths. 

The program 

The Kansas State College Advising Corps (KSCAC) program hires recent college graduates to serve as college advisers in select high schools across the Kansas City area and in central and southwest Kansas. 

The program was launched in 2016 with six advisers at high schools in the Kansas City area, said Meaghan Higgins, executive director. The first six high schools were Turner, Shawnee Mission South, Shawnee Mission North, Shawnee Mission West, Olathe East and Olathe North. 

KSCAC is a program within the Office of Enrollment Management at Kansas State University. While the program is housed on the K-State campus, it isn’t a recruiting mechanism for K-State, Higgins said. KSCAC is a constituent program of the College Advising Corps, which is an independent nonprofit organization that works to increase the rates of college enrollment and completion among low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented high school students. 

The need for the program stems from a “shifting workforce development landscape,” the KSCSC website states. Thirty-four percent of adults over the age of 25 in the Kansas City region have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the Mid-American Regional Council. In the past 10 years, 40% of the new jobs created in the Kansas City region require a bachelor’s degree. 

“Simultaneous to this evolving workforce landscape is the changing demographics of the U.S. and Greater Kansas City,” KSCAC information states. “The U.S. Census Bureau projects a significant shift in demographics. By 2050, the Bureau projects Black, Hispanic and Asian populations will comprise half of the U.S. population, while the number of white households is projected to decrease. Individuals in these diverse groups are often first-generation college students and unfamiliar with the application scholarship processes needed to enter higher education.” 

College advisers help students by providing guidance and encouragement needed to navigate the college admissions and financial aid processes, Higgins said. They work full-time in select partner high schools with ninth- through 12th-grade students and even occasionally provide outreach services to middle school students. 

Advisers collaborate with school staff members to ensure seniors have a postsecondary plan – whether that is pursuing a two-year or four-year degree, a technical/workforce credential or the military.  

“They dedicate 100% of their time to supporting students with postsecondary plans,” Higgins said. “It’s meeting the needs of the students and their families.” 

One school’s experience with KSCAC 

Two years ago, staff members at Dodge City Unified School District 443 were approached about the KSCAC program. 

Martha Mendoza, then named Dodge City High School’s new principal, jumped at the opportunity. The high school was working toward improving the number of students pursuing training and higher education after high school, and many of the students are first-generation college students.  

“We absolutely needed a college adviser,” Mendoza said. “I feel like in southwest Kansas, it is crucial.” 

Kirsten Frink, a Kansas State University graduate, heard about the KSCAC program during her senior year of college and immediately applied. She knew she wanted to go into the education field but wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue school counseling or teaching.  

Frink was hired and joined the staff of Dodge City High School. 

She and Mendoza started thinking “out of the box,” to get seniors and their families more engaged in postsecondary pursuits. 

“She had a lot of events every month,” Mendoza said. “She had a variety of ideas. This (postsecondary) is new territory for a lot of our kids.” 

Frink soon discovered that for herself. 

“The whole concept of college is very new to some of them,” she said of Dodge City High’s students. “It’s been a very eye-opening experience.” 

Frink hosted senior nights where students and their parents could learn about scholarships or spend time filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

In her work, Fink was able to support 80% of the senior class. While there is a concentrated effort to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students attending higher education institutions, college advisers through the KSCAC program are available to assist all students. 

“A lot of our students go into the workforce,” Frink said. 

Dodge City at one point had one of the lowest postsecondary effectiveness rates in the state at 21.4%. Today, the district has nearly doubled that to 40.4%. 

“We are putting some things in place this year to continue moving our numbers,” Mendoza said. “I am using this summer to build and present my plan to my administrators, counselors and support staff before students arrive in August.” 

‘A very formative experience’ 

McClain Hymer was graduating from K-State in 2019. She had two majors – psychology, and human development and family sciences. 

“I was pretty unsure what I wanted to do,” Hymer said. “I wasn’t sure what my path was going to be.” 

She considered graduate school to become a school counselor. In the end, she just wasn’t sure. That’s when she heard about the KSCAC program and decided to apply. 

In the fall of 2019, she started working as a college adviser for Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park. 

“It was amazing,” Hymer said. “It was a very formative experience. It really helped me figure out what I was interested in and what I wasn’t interested in.” 

As a recent college graduate, Hymer said she was able to build relationships with seniors and answer their questions about attending college. 

“I could talk about my own experience at a regional school,” she said. “I think seeing someone a little bit younger made it easier for them to identify with me. I could answer the question of ‘What is college life really like?’ “ 

Hymer shared those experiences but also helped students decide what postsecondary choice was the best fit for them. 

“There are other paths outside of the four-year college experience,” she said. “There has really been a shift in how people think about that. We serve all students. We’re available to everyone.” 

Like Frink, Hymer hosted events for seniors and their parents where they could work on financial aid and scholarships. 

“Parent engagement is a huge part of our role,” she said.  

After serving in her role at Shawnee Mission South for two years, Hymer became a part of the hybrid college adviser team through the KSCAC program. Hybrid college advisers serve students who receive Kansas City Scholars scholarships in the Kansas City area. KSCAC career advisers meet with Kansas City Scholars students virtually and in person. 

The mission of KC Scholars is to increase postsecondary education and credential attainment of low- and moderate-income adults and to significantly expand the number of adults who secure family-sustaining careers, according to kscholars.org. The program provides financial assistance and support for students and adults to attend college or get career training. 

Expansion of the KSCAC program  

Emergency relief aid funding from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) allowed KSCAC to expand from 13 schools to 20 in the fall of 2021, Higgins said. In the fall of 2022, an additional partner school was added, bringing the total to 21. 

During the next five years, KSCAC’s goal is to expand into new areas of the state (up to 57 schools), prioritizing communities with the greatest need.  

During the 2016-2017 school year, KSCAC served 2,354 students. In 2022-2023, the program served 7,100 students. Since the program’s inception, 16,597 students have received support in completing the FAFSA; 53,715 college applications have been submitted with adviser help; and $411.4 million in institutional aid and competitive scholarships have been secured. 

Before being named executive director of KSCAC in 2016, Higgins worked as a college adviser for the Missouri College Advisory Corps after she graduated from college. 

“It’s really neat to now serve in this capacity,” she said. 

College advisers must have a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and be eligible to enroll as an AmeriCorps member because 13 out of the 21 college adviser positions with KSCAC are designated for AmeriCorps service positions. The positions are full time, and advisers receive a $30,000 annual living allowance and health insurance. Each college adviser is appointed for one year of full-time service, with a maximum service term of two years. 

Looking ahead 

In Dodge City, Frink’s two-year service term will end next week. Through the college adviser experience, Frink has decided to pursue teaching. She plans to get a substitute teaching license this summer. 

While Frink won’t serve as a college adviser at Dodge City High School, Mendoza plans to keep many of her ideas in place. 

“She is 100% working for our students,” the principal said of Frink’s service. “I want to keep the things in place that she has implemented. This is such a critical role.” 

Dodge City High School is a large school - 6A - and Mendoza said she has asked if she can add another college adviser through the program.  

“Two would be ideal, but I’m not going to complain about one,” she said with a laugh. “That’s how much I believe in this.” 

Across the state, Hymer’s time with the KSCS hybrid college adviser team is ending, too. Next week, she will begin her new role as the manager of nationally competitive awards in the career services office at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

While she enjoyed helping high school students decide what postsecondary paths to pursue, she decided that her future is working with college students. 

Right alongside the students she has helped, the KSCAC program helped shape her future, too. 

“I cannot recommend the role enough,” Hymer said. “I’m super thankful for the support I’ve received along the way.” 



Schools and districts interested in partnering with Kansas State College Advising Corps (KSCAC) are invited to register here for a Zoom informational session at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 7. 

For more information about the program, visit https://www.k-state.edu/kscac/ or email Meaghan Higgins at mcbhiggins@ksu.edu

Posted: Jun 1, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush

Theme picker

Copyright 2024 by Kansas State Department of Education | 900 SW Jackson St. | Topeka, KS 66612 Privacy Statement  |  Terms Of Use  |  System Maintenance Notices  |  Open Records (PDF)

The Kansas State Department of Education does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities. (more information...)

To accommodate people with disabilities, on request, auxiliary aides and services will be provided and reasonable modifications to policies and programs will be made. To request accommodations or for more information please contact the Office of General Counsel at gc@ksde.org or by 785-296-3201.