CCTC: A New Wave of Support for Iowa's Underrepresented High School Students

Over the last three years, the Iowa Department of Education has worked to expand access to professionals who understand the college admissions process for underrepresented students in high schools across Iowa. In the spring of 2021, the department opened up it’s first grant opportunity to allow community colleges and high schools to partner to add College/Career Transition Counselors (CCTC).  Now, 2 ½ years later, there are nearly 50 CCTCs across the state with nearly every community college employing at least one school counselor. By the end of this school year, there are plans to have a CCTC at every community college serving at least one high school. As the network expands, it is important to understand the role of this new person at Iowa high schools and how college admission counselors can partner to increase student enrollment in college.

CCTCs are employed by the community college in the area in which the high school district(s) reside/s. The CCTC splits their time between the high school and the community college. Most of the CCTCs serve more than one high school with some CCTCs serving 4 high schools, mostly small rural high schools in the state. While this role may look different in each high school, the primary role of the CCTC is to support underrepresented students in their postsecondary planning. CCTCs are connecting with juniors and seniors throughout the last two years of high school to provide career exploration and college admissions help. CCTCs do not replace the school counselor in the high school, but work as an added support for students who need much more support in the college-going process (school counselors can think of this as a Tier 2 or Tier 3 support). As many of us are aware, minority, low-income, and first generation students often struggle with the many steps required to apply to and then attend college. CCTCs hope to help students navigate common barriers to success through individual counseling, school-wide activities like college application campaigns, FAFSA completion, understanding award letters, and enrollment procedures. Once students have taken the necessary steps to attend college, CCTCs are also able to support students in their first year on the community college campus by connecting them to resources available through the college. Many CCTCs also maintain contact with students attending other colleges to help them find the resources they need to retain and persist in college.

CCTCs also work to partner with postsecondary institutions and CBOs to provide the best support to their students. They may reach out to admissions counselors to assist or advocate for students, set up group visits, or ensure all application materials are submitted for a student. They may also ask questions about your admissions procedures and best ways to advise students on specific programs or transfer credit. Some CCTCs are new to the field of postsecondary advising and will have questions that seem pretty basic and others have years of experience on “both sides of the desk” who have helped students navigate the process in previous positions. Regardless of experience level, if you have the opportunity to work with a CCTC, welcome them to our community!

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