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Tulane’s Cowen Institute expands college and career counseling collaboratives in New Orleans


During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have been forced to contend with shuttered classrooms, quarantines and staff shortages resulting in high rates of absenteeism and lost instruction time.

A disproportionate amount of these impacts have fallen on historically marginalized and underserved groups. A key to ensuring students are passing classes, graduating and attending college is the availability of competent, professional college and career counseling in schools.

The Cowen Institute recently received a $405,000 grant from Kresge’s Education Program to further support the institute’s work to increase college access, persistence, and success among New Orleans youth. The three-year grant will fund an expansion of the Cowen Institute-led New Orleans College and Career Counseling Collaborative, College Persistence Collaborative, and the New Orleans-wide FAFSA completion campaign, with a focus on meeting the specific needs of new and veteran high school counselors.

The pandemic, hurricane displacement, exhaustion and turnover have also severely impacted the local education workforce. These upheavals demonstrated to collaborative leaders that the previous “one-size-fits-all” training would no longer be sufficient to the task, and new differentiated professional development tracks for both veteran and new counselors need to be developed.

“We are so grateful for the Kresge Foundation’s support,” said Cowen Institute Executive Director Amanda Kruger Hill. “This meaningful grant will dramatically impact our ability to increase college access and attainment among New Orleans’ young people.”

The grant will fund the continuation of the crucial work of the collaboratives, while offering additional engagement, training and workshops tailored to the different needs and backgrounds of counselors and practitioners. The Institute will launch an in-depth training program for new high school counselors to equip them with the tools to best support their students on college exploration and the application process, financial aid and career readiness programs. Additional opportunities for experienced counselors to deepen their expertise and share their knowledge with one another will be built out as well.

To help practitioners in lower-resourced schools create and maintain data systems, the program will employ a senior research fellow. The fellow will facilitate professional development for data managers, engage with school district leadership and high school and charter management organization data managers and provide tailored support at the high school level.

Funding will also support the Cowen Institute’s FAFSA completion website, which features timely tools, data and resources for counselors and others.

In 2020, around 57% of New Orleans public high school students enrolled in college. The program expects to increase that number to 70% among students who work with participating counselors and also increase college persistence and completion.

Since 2005, Kresge has actively invested in various efforts to create opportunities for residents’ growth and sustainable change in New Orleans. This latest grant represents a vote of confidence in the institute’s efforts, deepening a relationship with Kresge that began with its first grant of $50,000 to the Cowen Institute in 2018 to launch the city-wide FAFSA completion campaign.

“Across the country, the needs of graduating high school seniors continue to shift and change. Young scholars in New Orleans are presented with their own unique hurdles and deserve an education workforce equipped to help them navigate modern college and career obstacles,” said Bill Moses, managing director of Kresge’s Education Program. “To best serve students, we need to consider how we can adequately prepare, invest in and retain the talented counselors that have remained committed to ushering the city’s youth into the next phase of their academic journey.”

“The Cowen Institute’s work supporting the education of the youth of New Orleans is a crucial element of Tulane’s partnership with, and commitment to, our host city,” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Robin Forman said, “and I am very pleased that with this gift from Kresge we will be able to expand these efforts.”