MCAN Launches AdviseMI, New College Adviser Program for Michigan High Schools

As part of the Michigan College Access Network’s commitment to #ReachHigher and achieve Goal 2025,MCAN launched a new college advising program called AdviseMI. The program seeks to help more Michigan students pursue postsecondary education by placing recent college graduates as advisers in communities across Michigan, particularly those with low college-going rates and low adult educational attainment rates.

Training kicks off this week for the 40 newly-hired advisers who are recent graduates from 12 partnering colleges. Collectively, they will serve 50 high schools in every corner of the state and 35,000 students, 8,000 of whom are seniors. Working alongside high school counselors and other school staff, these advisers will support students as they make the transition from high school to a postsecondary education institution.

How did MCAN get to this point today?

It started as an MCAN board of directors’ discussion in September 2014. Michigan was seeing great success from the highly-effective College Advising Corps through Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, and MCAN was regularly contacted by high schools asking how more advisers could be made available across the state. MCAN’s board wanted to explore other options to meet the high need and high demands, so they encouraged MCAN staff to explore the possibility of launching a strategy to increase the number of dedicated college advisers in Michigan.

My staff and I dove right into the challenge and identified over 350 high schools in Michigan that had either above a 42 percent Free-and-Reduced lunch rate (state average) or served at least 400 students who were on Free-and-Reduced lunch. We wanted to make sure there were lots of schools with need – and doing this analysis confirmed our hunch.

We quickly arranged a meeting with representatives from the Governor’s Office and State Budget Office to gauge interest of public funding to support a major college advising initiative. From the beginning, we conceptualized this program as a public-private partnership. We suggested that the State put forward 1/3 of the necessary funds and challenge MCAN to raise the remaining 2/3 from non-state sources.

The next few months were spent designing the program and setting goals. While attending the White House College Opportunity Day of Commitment in early December 2014, MCAN committed to hiring an additional 40 college advisers to serve an additional 50 high schools. This goal allowed us to double the impact of efforts already made by the Michigan State University College Advising Corps and the University of Michigan College Advising Corps.

Next, we secured funding through an AmeriCorps grant opportunity and approached college and university presidents across the state to explore the possibility of a partnership. This partnership asked the colleges to provide small financial support while MCAN committed to hiring recent college graduates from the partner colleges to serve as advisers. Ultimately, MCAN established partnerships with 12 colleges and universities.

By February 2015, it was becoming more real as we opened the RFP process for high schools to apply to host an adviser. We received more applications than we could support, making the process competitive. The selected high schools were announced in April during our annual conference.

MCAN staff quickly turned into recruitment mode for recent college graduates from our partner colleges and universities. From May to June 2015, with the support of our high school and college partners, MCAN hired 40 advisers as well as two co-directors that will lead the new program. Training for the newly-hired advisers kicks off this week, and then the advisers will report to their buildings and begin serving in late August 2015.

Remember our challenge by the State? MCAN met the challenge and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recommended an additional $1 million in his most recent budget for programs intended to increase the number of college advisers in schools.

My staff and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see our hard work coming to life. We were aggressive and kept our eye on the ultimate goal of helping more students as they make the transition from high school to a postsecondary education institution.

Follow the AdviseMI college advisers during training on Instagram: @AdviseMI or #AdviseMI.

For more information, visit

Brandy Johnson headshot 2013Author: Brandy Johnson, Michigan College Access Network executive director

Posted: July 8, 2015

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