New Program Aims to Boost Postsecondary Outcomes for Rural Students


The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in partnership with philanthropic organization rootEd Alliance, today launched a statewide initiative to ensure high school students, particularly those in rural communities, have an advisor exclusively focused on helping them achieve success following graduation. The program, called the Missouri Postsecondary Advising Initiative, will place trained advisors into rural high schools, alongside school counselors, to provide students individualized college and career support.

“As we continue to navigate the impact of the pandemic on our workforce, now more than ever, it is critical to support our students to build a bridge from high school to lifelong success,” said Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven. “Placing dedicated college and career advisors in rural high schools provides students in rural communities exposure and access to a variety of postsecondary opportunities. The Missouri Postsecondary Advising Initiative is an achievable, scalable solution.”

Applications for the 2021-22 school year are now available, and schools will be selected based on school and community need, COVID impact in the community, and geography. The first awards, which will be funded by federal COVID relief dollars, will be announced in November 2021. In the 2021-22 school year, 35 local education agencies (LEAs) will be announced as grant awardees. Any additional applicants, up to 100 more, will begin the program in the 2022-23 school year.

Selected schools will hire and place dedicated college and career advisors in high schools to support students’ postsecondary pursuits by:

  • Developing and implementing individualized plans for postsecondary education and training;
  • Identifying opportunities to secure financial aid, including completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);
  • Supporting students as they work to enroll in college, earn a workplace credential, and/or enlist in the armed services; and
  • Coaching students through the transition from high school to lifelong success.

The advisors will receive ongoing training and operational support from Ozarks Technical Community College.

“It is estimated that 65 percent of Missouri’s jobs will require some level of training or education beyond high school by 2028—and only 47 percent of the state’s working age population currently has any postsecondary credential,” said rootEd Alliance President Noa Meyer. “The rootEd model is helping to narrow this gap by ensuring Missouri high school students—particularly those in rural communities who face unique barriers to postsecondary options—graduate on a path toward prosperity. We’re excited that more rural communities will benefit from the rootEd model.”

RootEd Alliance has worked in Missouri for three years, serving more than 2,200 students. In those high schools, postsecondary enrollment increased by up to 10 percent, even as enrollment fell across the state in response to the pandemic. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of students completed postsecondary applications and received at least one acceptance.

Reeds Spring High School is among those participating schools. Principal Isaac Sooter said his school’s advisor has been critical to breaking down barriers for students.

“Whether a student wants to enroll in college or receive on-the-job technical training, Paige will create a tailored plan to get them there—and cheer for them every step of the way,” Sooter said. “Every high school student deserves that type of guidance and support.”


About rootEd Alliance

RootEd Alliance, Inc. is a collaborative philanthropic effort that aims to chart stronger futures for students in rural America. This effort was borne out of BDT & Company’s commitment to building impactful social projects that bring donors together around big ideas that are under-resourced and overlooked by the philanthropic sector, with great need and great potential for impact. RootEd Alliance partners with local and national organizations to transform postsecondary and career outcomes for rural students through advice, exposure, and access to financial resources. Together, these organizations form a holistic model that supports students in high school through college and beyond. Currently, rootEd Alliance serves more than 10,000 students each year in over 75 high schools in Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, and Idaho. More information is available at