6/05/2014 Peter Durantine

Lenfest Grant Bolsters Successful College Advising Program

  • Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Philadelphia-based Lenfest Foundation, the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps will be able to counsel an additional 1,600 Pennsylvania high school students on the college search and application process. The current advisers are (front row, l-r) Bill Smith, Amanda Loh '13, Briana Stetler, Dionna Wright, Josh Granberry, (back row, l-r) Kate Dollard, Liz Hackett '13, Molly Thompson '13, Jess Fegely '10, and Brittany McClinton. (Photo courtesy of Bob Freund)

A program that encourages talented high school students from rural Pennsylvania to pursue a college education while guiding them through the search and application process has earned Franklin & Marshall College renewed support from a leading benefactor.

The Philadelphia-based Lenfest Foundation has awarded $300,000 to the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps (PCAC) to allow F&M to expand PCAC to reach more students. The foundation's grant -- the second $300,000, three-year grant Lenfest has made to PCAC -- will be divided evenly over three years to support the program.

"Over the past three years in our three Lenfest-supported schools, we have helped more than 2,400 students on their paths to post-secondary education," said Robert Freund, PCAC's program director. "These students made academically challenging and financially sound choices. Because of the generosity of the Lenfest Foundation, these promising young adults will not only enjoy personal success, but they will change the prospects for generations to come."

Each year since 2008, PCAC has recruited recent graduates from F&M and area colleges to serve as college counselors in a dozen rural central Pennsylvania high schools. Lenfest's continuing investment will ensure a long-term PCAC presence at Biglerville, Chambersburg and James Buchannan high schools, and Greencastle-Antrim High School, which is also served by the Lenfest College Scholarship Program, Freund said. Four grant-funded college advisers working in these schools will provide individual counseling to more than 1,600 students each year during the grant period.

In announcing the grant to the College community, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield praised the college advisers for helping high school students fulfill their college aspirations.

"The high-school students served -- many of whom are first-generation college-goers -- would otherwise receive very little individualized support in seeking out a college education that will help them continue their intellectual and personal growth," Porterfield said. "It’s exciting that some of the students served over the past two years are now at leading institutions including F&M, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Penn."

The country's leading higher education institutions ultimately serve society by seeing high school students better prepared for college success, Porterfield added. 

PCAC advisers guide juniors and seniors in selecting colleges that are a good fit, then help the students navigate the application and financial aid processes. At the same time, the advisers promote a college-going culture in these schools, where many of the students would be first-generation college-goers. According to PCAC, at one Lenfest-supported high school -- Biglerville in Adams County -- college matriculation rates have increased from an average of 68 percent of students to 79 percent in just three years.

Lenfest's executive director, Bruce Melgary, praised PCAC for the quality of its advisers and its commitment to rural high schools that lack the resources to advise students on the college search and application process.

"It beefs up the capacity for meaningful advising about college," Melgary said. "It has been a great ancillary and systematic part of the Lenfest College Scholarship Program. We very much want it to continue."

The Lenfest Foundation is an independent foundation that provides scholarships for students from primarily rural areas in Pennsylvania, as well as career and early-childhood education for disadvantaged youth, primarily in Philadelphia.

In addition to support from the foundation, PCAC also is funded by the National College Advising Corps program, AmeriCorps, businesses enrolled in the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, and contributions from participating high schools. PCAC is a consortium of F&M, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College and Millersville University, and also receives support from the partner institutions. 

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