- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A group that helps Missouri high school students pursue a college degree plans to expand across the state and double in size in the next two years.

The Missouri College Advising Corps places recent University of Missouri graduates at high schools where many students don’t go on to college. The advisers help students pursue a college degree.

The program, which is based at the University of Missouri, currently has 25 advisers at 26 schools in Kansas City, St. Louis and rural south-central Missouri. Its goal is to expand to 50 advisers in 52 schools by 2016, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1hLlzfV ).

The group’s executive director, Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, said partner schools will be added in the current service area but also in central, southeast and southwest Missouri. She hopes the program eventually will expand to northern Missouri.

The Missouri program, which is part of the National College Advising Corps, is funded by the university and private donations. Its current operating budget is $1.3 million, most of which comes from donors. A $1 million grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation started the program in 2008. The advisers are paid $32,000 plus benefits and a $5,500 education award from AmeriCorps.

The University of Missouri System is seeking $3 million to fund the advising corps’ expansion over the next two years.

Kofi Oyirisi, a Missouri graduate and second-year adviser at McCluer South-Berkeley in north St. Louis County, said the program is rewarding.

“I think for me, the most important thing is I can tangibly see the results of the work that I’m doing,” he said. “I can see how my work is directly serving the kids and how, without me, things may have been drastically different.”

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, http://www.columbiatribune.com