SPRINGFIELD, MO — Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) and rootEd Alliance are working together to help more rural students pursue and complete postsecondary education, including two-year and four-year institutions, technical schools and the military, so they can be better prepared for the workforce. Through this partnership, four new advisors are embedded at high schools in Branson, Forsyth, Hollister and Reeds Spring, providing proactive support for all students as they explore their postsecondary options, access financial aid, and determine the best path for their skills and aspirations after high school.
A focus on rural students
OTC’s partnership with rootEd Alliance is filling a critical gap in supports for Missouri’s rural students, who graduate from high school at a higher rate than the national average,[i] but face unique challenges when accessing higher education. In recent years, only 62 percent of students across Branson, Forsyth, Hollister and Reeds Spring pursued postsecondary education upon graduation, and research shows that even fewer will complete their degrees.[ii] At the same time, 83 percent of jobs in Missouri require education and training beyond high school.[iii] Closing this gap is critical to the future success of students and their communities
“We find that rural students, especially those who have had no one in their family attend college, face barriers to accessing post-secondary education,” said Dr. Brad Swofford, Branson Public Schools superintendent. “The mission of rootEd Alliance lines up with our district’s goal to increase the number of Branson students who attain a postsecondary degree or credential.”
rootEd Alliance is a collaborative philanthropic effort that brings together high-impact organizations and educational institutions to support rural students of all academic levels and interests as they pursue and complete postsecondary education. Through its network of partners, rootEd Alliance currently serves over 3,000 students in Missouri and Tennessee, across 15 high schools and four community colleges.
“rootEd Alliance is committed to unlocking the potential of rural students through postsecondary educational opportunity,” said Noa Meyer, president of rootEd Alliance and head of Philanthropy & Social Impact at BDT & Company. “With less than 5 percent of philanthropic dollars nationally going to support rural communities, we’re proud to partner with OTC to support these innovative solutions in the Branson region.”
Already seeing success
OTC was inspired to launch this new, comprehensive effort after seeing a double digit jump in enrollment from nearby high schools where rootEd placed college and career advisors last school year. In addition to embedding advisors in local high schools, OTC has also partnered with rootEd to add new advisors at the college to better support enrolled students through the completion of their degrees from OTC.
“We’re excited by the early progress of this new embedded advising program,” said Dr. Hal Higdon, OTC chancellor. “Over time, our partnership with rootEd Alliance and local collaboration has huge potential to benefit rural areas across Southwest Missouri by enabling greater access to postsecondary education for all students.”
The goal to increase rural postsecondary attendance, regardless of institution, aligns with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development’s Blueprint for Higher Education. Released in 2016, MDHEWD’s blueprint has set a goal to increase the percentage of working-age adults with postsecondary college credentials to 60 percent by 2025.
[ii] Three-year weighted average from DESE [confirm with OTC/Cicero]