Although it's only existed for a little more than a semester, higher education officials say a new program designed to help certain students navigate the college application process is already making strides.
The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education launched a program last year that places so-called college liaisons in five community colleges around the state. Those liaisons work with students from 25 high schools across the state.
The $250,000 program is funded through grant money from Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP, a U.S. Education Department grant program designed to help low-income students go to college. The grant expires in 2018.
The liaisons work with students from families where going to college isn't common. The liaisons are based in five community colleges statewide: Rose State College in Midwest City, Murray State College in Tishomingo, Tulsa Community College, Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, and Western Oklahoma State College in Altus.
From those campuses, the liaisons work with students at the 25 high schools across the state that are a part of the GEAR UP program. The liaisons arrange college visits, help students understand applications and financial aid paperwork and speak with students and parents about ACT and SAT preparation, said Kristi Allison, the school and student communications specialist for Oklahoma GEAR UP.
Once the first cohort of students is in college, the liaisons will continue to help them with issues like understanding their bursar bills and finding tutoring when they need it.