Kerrigan Clark, a Fellow of the Southern Education Leadership Institute (SELI), delivered a presentation to South Carolina Commission on Higher Education staff Wednesday following several months of research on the CHE College Process Ambassador Program and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion in South Carolina.
Clark is a graduate student at Mississippi State University; her research and presentation were part of her summer internship with the CHE's Office of Student Affairs.
She considers her experience at the CHE as valuable for her continued education and future career.
"This is something I will apply in the future, especially as I go forward and work to develop new programs for students," said Clark.
Throughout this internship, Clark said she gained valuable insights into challenges surrounding college access, such as those faced by college counselors.
During an interview with Anna Duvall, a Student Intervention Service Education Associate at the South Carolina Department of Education, Clark discovered the multiple roles counselors often undertake and the need to prioritize career guidance for students.
"This was something I had never thought about. I'm passionate about supporting teachers and counselors," Clark said.
Clark also led a focus group with CHE College Process Ambassadors and conducted external interviews to gain insights into the needs of ambassadors and increase the number of students applying for federal financial aid and pursuing post-secondary degrees.
Clark made recommendations to CHE based on her research findings from interviewing College Process Ambassadors. Some of these included:
- Improve end-of-the-year social content to prevent the "Senior/Summer Melt," a phenomenon in which students lose motivation.
- Develop a comprehensive timeline guide for high school seniors.
- Increase content that promotes social and emotional well-being.
- Foster greater collaboration between students and school counselors at college access events.
Regarding strategies to improve college completion rates in South Carolina, Clark emphasized the importance of creating a college-going culture through programs like the CHE's College Process Ambassador program.
Clark also advocates for sharing FAFSA data with School Districts to drive completion campaigns, increase rates of FAFSA submission, and transform postsecondary advising practices.
Clark is currently pursuing a master's degree in public policy and administration and desires to serve marginalized populations and enhance educational practices through policy research and advocacy. As a graduate assistant for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at her college, she focuses on developing, planning, and facilitating educational learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
Kerrigan Clark photographed with Dr. Karen Woodfaulk and Dr. Gerrick Hampton, Director and Associate Director of the Office of Student Affairs.