Making the Connection: A Summer Convening to Advance Aligned Advising

Friday, November 4, 2022
Janice Le

This summer, ESG brought together leaders from five states to strategize on policies and best practices to strengthen high-quality advising efforts for students as they transition from high school into higher education. With the dramatic and disproportionate declines in direct college enrollment coming out of the pandemic, helping students navigate the maze of college application and matriculation must become a top priority for all communities. 

In an effort to support collective community action, ESG engaged K-12 and higher education leaders from Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee for a one-day convening to identify opportunities to strengthen and align their postsecondary advising systems. The discussions were grounded in the research and recommendations from ESG’s report, Making the Connection: Aligned Advising to Improve Postsecondary Access and Success. At the convening, ESG presented teams with research, examples of promising practices, and actionable tools. State teams also engaged in cross-state conversations to share their own learnings on implementing effective advising policies and programs. Furthermore, states had the opportunity to reflect on their current strategies, highlight bright spots in their work, and identify areas for improvement and scale. 

We are excited to share leading policies and practices from each state as they work to improve postsecondary access and success for their students.


Arizona offers various programs that support students, families, and educators in navigating their postsecondary journey. For example, AskBenji sends text messages to nudge students periodically about important college-related information. AskBenji provides students with a highly accessible chatbot option that students can message with questions related to financial aid, college, and graduate school. Students can also see an in-person advisor through Education Forward Arizona’s advising program. The AdviseAZ Americorps Program connects students with a near-peer advisor to work closely with high school counselors and staff to help students through the college exploration, application, and admissions process. In addition, Arizonan students and adults can utilize the Arizona Career Information System (AzCIS), which offers a broad range of tools that connects users to resources and career information to support them with making a long-term career plan. 


IllinoisPostsecondary and Career Expectations (PACE) framework is a set of benchmarks for the college and career planning process for students beginning in the 8th grade. Each student is expected to have an individualized learning plan to help inform them and their families of their goals after graduating high school. The framework was adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. Most recently, the PACE framework was expanded to start in the 6th grade and will be adopted by all Chicago Public Schools by 2023. 


Over the last few years, Kentucky has made strong commitments to its students’ success by addressing summer melt and increasing access to high-quality aligned advising supports. Through the Kentucky Commonwealth Education Continuum, the Kentucky Advising Academy (KAA) was developed to provide a series of professional learning resources for school counselors and practitioners in the field at no cost. The KAA has also shared essential tools and learnings related to advising efforts through its monthly podcasts and webinars. Significantly, the KAA is working to develop a toolkit to help counselors, educators, and practitioners with college and career advising for Kentuckian students.  


Mississippi offers a College and Career Readiness (CCR) course to help students build the skills necessary for success beyond high school graduation. This course was developed and supported by the Mississippi Department of Education and is a high school graduation requirement for students. Its goal is to provide students with the necessary skills to succeed in postsecondary education or the workforce. In addition, the state recently released grant to develop and scale the Accelerate MS Career Coaching Program for middle and high school students to help them with career exploration, preparation, and connection to career pathways. 


Tennessee is focused on increasing the number of students enrolling in a postsecondary institution in the state directly after high school graduation. There are three programs that the state and institutional leaders have implemented to increase matriculation and retention at community colleges. First, the Tennessee Promise Scholarship is a last-dollar scholarship that provides community college-bound students with financial aid support to cover tuition costs and mandatory fees. To help further student success, Tennessee’s Promise Scholarship program partners with tnAchieves to offer recipients the mentorship and advising supports needed to help them enroll and obtain a degree. Annually, tnAchieves provides extensive student success advising from high school through college to career to over 90% of high school students across the state. In addition, AdviseTN helps build advising capacity in the state by delivering trained college advisors to high-need high schools. Each year, they serve over 10,000 junior and senior high school students across the state. 

Furthermore, in an effort to improve the coordination and alignment of college and career advising across the state, Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) conducted focus groups with practitioners and curated a report on “Advising Students Toward Opportunity” that highlights common advising practices and provides a landscape map of the various college and career advising organizations in the state. Most recently, the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) is hosting an interactive advising webinar series to help advisors at two-year institutions across the state increase student retention and improve student success rates. ESG was invited to kick off the webinar series in October, where we presented our framework for strengthening and aligning advising. You can access the webinar recording on Strengthening and Aligning Postsecondary Advising and check out future events at TBR’s website

If your state is interested in learning more about ESG’s work around aligned advising, please reach out to