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John M. Belk Endowment Gives $10M to College Advising Corps to Improve Access to College for Rural N.C. High School Students

Endowment's First Major Grant to Boost Workforce and N.C. Communities

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The White House today is set to announce that the John M. Belk Endowment will provide $10 million to the College Advising Corps to increase access to higher education for low-income students in rural North Carolina high schools, a three-year initiative that supports Michelle Obama's second-term focus and the President's efforts to boost the nation's college graduation rates.

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The John M. Belk Endowment's grant aims to send more students from rural high schools to college and other training programs that will improve their futures and strengthen the workforce in their communities.

The gift also highlights dramatic growth in the size and reach of the College Advising Corps, which places recent college graduates as college advisers in underserved high schools across the country. The funding will allow the Corps to partner with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College and North Carolina State University to place advisers in 60 rural high schools to increase student access to four-year colleges, community colleges and other credentialing programs that will lead to family-sustaining jobs aligned with workforce needs.

By 2018, experts estimate 63 percent of jobs will require some sort of higher education. Yet rural students nationally lag behind their urban peers in college enrollment and persistence, leaving the workforce in these communities less competitive for new jobs and investment. In North Carolina, about 27 percent of adults in rural counties hold two- or four-year degrees, compared to 42 percent in urban areas.

"We are finding that too many talented young people who are college ready do not apply to college because they lack the financial resources and understanding of how to access higher education – which can positively change the trajectory of their lives," said Kristy Teskey, the inaugural executive director of the John M. Belk Endowment.

"Our funding support will help break through those barriers to match rural students with opportunities that fit them best, and in turn create a more educated North Carolina workforce," she said. "And a stronger workforce will attract new economic investments to our rural communities and our state."

The $10 million gift is the first to reflect the John M. Belk Endowment's newly defined mission to empower the 21st century workforce by creating pathways to prosperity for low-income and other underrepresented students by increasing their access to higher education.

The John M. Belk Endowment will award more than $13 million annually in grants to organizations aligned with its new mission, which is based on the vision of its founder, the late John M. Belk, who served as Charlotte mayor and CEO of Belk Inc., the nation's largest family-owned and-operated department store company. Mr. Belk initially created the John M. Belk Endowment in 1995 to fund a national merit scholarship program at his beloved alma mater, Davidson College.

"My dad valued education and collaboration as a means to community vitality," said M.C. Pilon, chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. "We're building on his vision as a businessman and a civic and community leader to strengthen North Carolina's workforce by giving all students access to the education they need to succeed."

The John M. Belk Endowment has partnered with the College Advising Corps because of its demonstrated results and ability to scale up the program ideally to all high schools across the state. High schools with Corps advisers see an 8 to 10 percent increase in college-going rates compared to schools without advisers, according to a study by Stanford University.

The Corps will grow 34 percent this year with advisers in 552 high schools in 14 states. The advisers work in conjunction with high school guidance counselors, and are expertly trained to navigate complex admissions, financial aid, and evaluation processes – and to guide students toward higher education and credentialing opportunities that best fit their skills and interests.

Advisers also work closely with colleges and programs that are aligned with workforce needs and have demonstrated commitment to helping students complete their programs.

"We are excited to expand aggressively into rural North Carolina," said Nicole Hurd, founder and CEO of the College Advising Corps. "A successful future for low-income students is often made possible with a college degree, and a successful North Carolina is made possible by a dynamic, educated population. It is an honor to serve the state's students with our partner universities as we work to strengthen North Carolina's human capital, economic capacity and rural communities." 

About the John M. Belk Endowment
Based in Charlotte, N.C., the John M. Belk Endowment is a private family foundation whose newly defined mission is to empower the 21st century workforce by creating pathways to prosperity for underrepresented students by increasing their access to and completion of higher educational opportunities in North Carolina. Beginning in 2014, the John M. Belk Endowment will award more than $13 million annually in grants to programs and institutions aligned with this mission, which is based on the vision of its founder, the late John M. Belk. Mr. Belk served as the mayor of Charlotte and CEO of Belk Inc., the nation's largest family-owned and-operated department store company. He created the John M. Belk Endowment in 1995 to fund a national merit scholarship program for his beloved alma mater, Davidson College. For more information, please visit www.jmbendowment.org.

About the College Advising Corps
The College Advising Corps, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., works to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underserved high school students who enter and complete higher education. To deliver on this mission, the College Advising Corps places well-trained, recent college graduates from 23 partner institutions of higher education as full-time college advisers in the nation's underserved schools. The College Advising Corps provides the support that high school students need to navigate the complex processes of college admissions, securing financial aid and enrolling in schools that serve them well. For the 2013-2014 school year, the Corps had 375 advisers in 423 high schools in 14 states serving 128,000 students. The Corps will add three university partners in 2014: Davidson College, N.C. State University and Washington University. For more information, go to www.advisingcorps.org.

SOURCE John M. Belk Endowment

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