The Economics Department

Two Economics Graduates Help High School Students Forge a Path to College


As a first generation, low income college student, UT Austin Economics alum Gorge Martinez knows how daunting the college application process can be for a high school student who lacks resources and support. Thanks to the Texas College Advising Corps, Gorge now helps students at Harlandale High School in San Antonio overcome the obstacles he once encountered in pursuing higher education.

Shirley Yang always imagined herself advising students. The opportunity came along much sooner than she had expected when she learned about the Texas College Adviser Corps program in her graduating semester as an Economics major at UT Austin. She is now pursuing her ambition at Chavez High School in Houston.

Gorge and Shirley were among fifteen May 2010 graduates who were selected by The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Public School Initiatives (IPSI), to serve in the Advise TX College Advising Corps. Advise TX is a constituent program of the highly successful National College Advising Corps (NCAC), which has university partners in 14 states. Created in 2010, the Advise TX College Advising Corps seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented Texas high school students entering and completing postsecondary education. By placing recent college graduates of chapter institutions as college advisers in underserved high schools across Texas, the program strives to empower students by giving them the information, encouragement, and support they need to navigate the college admissions process. After receiving high-quality training, TCAC advisers serve a one to two year term working full-time to help students plan their college searches, complete admissions and financial aid applications, and enroll at institutions that will serve them well.

"With high school guidance counselor caseloads nearing 500 students per counselor nationwide,” says Dr. Nicole Farmer Hurd, executive director of the National College Advising Corps, “there’s a critical need for advisers to assist in high schools.”  She adds that “because these advisers are ‘near-peer,’ which just means they are close in age and circumstance to the students they serve, they can connect in ways that others often cannot.”

Already there is evidence that advisors like Gorge and Shirley are bridging the gap. With 15 near-peer college advisers serving high schools in San Antonio, Houston, and the Rio Grande Valley, The University of Texas at Austin chapter of Advise TX has seen a 57% overall increase in college applications at its partner high schools. Between August and December, 2010, The University of Texas' college advisers held over 10,000 one-on-one counseling sessions with students and facilitated over 4,500 SAT and ACT registrations. Advisers also encouraged over 2,000 students to meet with college representatives and sent 1,800 more Texas high school students on college campus tours.

"The Texas College Advising Corps is a key part of The University of Texas at Austin’s efforts to keep the doors of college open to all,” says William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. “Just as Teach for America taps recent graduates for the classroom, the Advising Corps taps recent graduates for advising in our high schools. We expect these alumni will benefit long-term through their civic engagement and will be more active members of their communities.”

There is no doubt that the program also provides these recent college graduates the opportunity to gain experience and build valuable skills. Gorge and Shirley agree that they benefit as much as the students they serve. “My experience has been amazing. I was lucky to have been matched up with a high school that I feel very comfortable in. Although there have been many challenging moments, the students make each day completely worth it,” says Shirley. Gorge says, “My experience so far has been extremely rewarding! Everyday I have the opportunity to make an impact in the students at Hallandale High School. As a college adviser, I have engaging conversations with students and encourage students to explore higher education. Students thank me all the time for my hard work and dedication, which motivates me to work even harder.” Both Gorge and Shirley plan to pursue masters’ degrees in School Counseling or High Education Administration after their terms are complete.

The Economics Department is pleased to have alumni like Gorge Martinez and Shirley Yang making a positive contribution in Texas schools. We wish them the best of luck in the completion of their terms as college advisors and in their future endeavors. Are you interested becoming a member of Advise TX? Adviser positions for the UT Austin Chapter of the 2011 Corps are now open. Visit the Advise TX website for more information and to apply.

·         Priority Application Deadline: March 23, 2011

·         Final Application Deadline: April 18. 2011

By Jana Cole, March 7th, 2011. Sources: UT College of Education Institute for Public School Initiative and interviews with Gorge Martinez and Shirley Yang