The college application and financial aid process can be confusing for many high school students, and often requires the assistance of trained professionals. High school guidance counselors, such as Lansing High School’s Wes Cackler, are often the first stop for many students. Unfortunately, with his high caseload of juniors and seniors, Mr. Cackler said it is difficult to ensure that all students get the attention they need and deserve. To reach all students, Mr. Cackler has found a team approach to be most effective. Through Lansing High School’s partnership with The University of Kansas TRIO Educational Opportunity Center (TRIO EOC), more seniors within the district are receiving the necessary supports to help advance their education.
TRIO EOC serves adults and eligible high school seniors in northeast Kansas by providing information and technical assistance during the college application and financial aid process. Lansing High Schools’s College and Career Guidance Department has teamed up with TRIO EOC to serve eligible seniors by providing college and financial aid application information sessions, campus visits, and ACT preparation workshops. Beyond school events, TRIO EOC staff are available for appointments at the downtown Leavenworth office.
According to Mr. Cackler, college campus visits are one of the major benefits of partnering with TRIO EOC. Through the partnership students, have the opportunity to experience campus life firsthand, “and get needed information that they otherwise wouldn’t get.” He noted that visiting a college campus is especially impactful for students who will be the first in their families to attend college, as well as students whose families may not be able to take them on campus visits themselves. TRIO EOC has sponsored several visits including trips to the University of Kansas, Pittsburg State University, Baker University, Washburn University, and Emporia State University.
TRIO EOC supplements the efforts of the Lansing High School guidance staff in a multitude of other ways as well. Mr. Cackler sees the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) support offered by TRIO EOC as a critical addition to the school’s already strong college advising department. Mr. Cackler credits TRIO EOC with an increase in FAFSA completion at Lansing High and is particularly excited about the technical expertise offered by the staff, “Having people here who have filled out the FAFSA more than once has been great. Their experience in and with the system adds a ton of knowledge for parents and students who attend their financial aid nights.”
Mr. Cackler strongly believes that an important aspect of his job is to encourage students who might not think college is possible for them. Through the TRIO EOC partnership, Mr. Cackler has seen positive outcomes across his school community. “For us in the guidance department, if we are telling kids information about the financial aid process, then TRIO EOC comes in and reiterates that same information, then students start to believe it is possible!”