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Thirty high schools with low college-going rates will get extra counselors under state’s newest Drive to 55 initiative

From left: Fatimata Deme and Djeynaba Anne proudly show off their college choices during Academic Signing Day at Whitehaven High School in Memphis.
From left: Fatimata Deme and Djeynaba Anne proudly show off their college choices during Academic Signing Day at Whitehaven High School in Memphis.
Micaela Watts

A new resource to get students to college is coming to high schools across Tennessee — or at least about 6 percent of them.

Gov. Bill Haslam announced on Thursday a program to provide college counselors to 30 public high schools whose students attend college at a rate lower than the state average. The initiative, called Advise TN, is the latest project of the state’s Drive to 55 campaign. The campaign aims to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by 2025.

Across Tennessee, about 60 percent of students head to college right after high school, and 40 of the state’s 97 counties had college-going rates lower than that in 2012, the last year for which data is available.

That includes Shelby County Schools, where 30 high schools are eligible for the new counselors — the number that will be available statewide. (There are nearly 500 public high schools in Tennessee.)

“We are changing the conversation in Tennessee around going to college, and there’s more we can do,” Haslam said in a press release. “This program will provide schools across the state with one more adult in students’ lives, focused on helping them navigate the transition from high school to college.”

The initiative is costing the state just under $2.5 million — a little less than the $3 million the state recently spent on an ad campaign to tell high schoolers that sometimes it’s better not to go to college.

Schools must apply to get one of the new counselors, who will be selected and trained over the summer. Over time, schools will be asked to foot the bill for the new counselors, according to the state.

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