In the basement of the Boston Public Library, a soft hum of conversation can be heard. Teens and adults gather inside the library’s College Planning Center to utilize The Education Resource Institute (TERI) in small groups, looking through computer databases and scholarship books.
TERI is a federally funded educational opportunity center with the goal of bridging the gap between what students can achieve in higher education and what they can afford. Spawned from the Higher-Education Act of 1965 to encourage low-income students to go to college, TERI began in 1985 and has been offered as a free walk-in service by the Boston Common Library ever since.
“I kind of describe it to people like we are the emergency room and doctor’s office,” TERI Education Advisor Kevin Fudge said, “Come in and tell us where it hurts.”
Fudge further describes TERI as a “one-stop shop” that provides parents and students with information on most post-high school options from securing their GED, to what to do after high school, how to get into college and how to pay for it all. The bulk of what they do happens now, between January and May. Fudge said that most people seek assistance in filling out the complex Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Last year, more than 3,000 people came through TERI, and this year they expect as many as 4,000 people. The majority of visitors are high school juniors and seniors. Fudge explained that younger visitors usually come in student groups with schools. Last year, for instance, South Shore Charter School visited the center and brought their entire ninth through 12th grade population.
Some know exactly how they need assistance, and some have no idea.
If a student comes in hoping to attend college but they don’t have the grades or SAT scores, they will guide them through the creation of an education plan.
Fudge says that he draws a figurative map for the students, and helping them navigate their options by “(explaining) the landscape and saying ‘if you’re here, here’s how you get to the various places you may want to go.’”
The TERI education advisors work as a team to help high school grads and other community members develop a plan for whatever they want to do. Each time someone new visits the center, they open a file on them to help track their progress and make sure that the visitor can begin again right where they left off. The center will also contact students over the summer to check-in and even advocate for them with colleges, leveraging the advisors’ connections and experiences.
Fudge offers up his own collegiate experience when telling students what to expect out of their college experience.
He said that he got into the University of Virginia by “winging it” but was initially behind the curve when it came to planning for his academic success.
“I was in danger of being on academic probation because I didn’t take school seriously,” he said. “I didn’t understand how to be a good student, and the skills that I should have learned in high school, I didn’t. … When I talk to students I don’t just tell the facts; [I] tell them why it’s important to go to school — I say learn from me, don’t do what I did.” He said, “The main things to get out of school are people skills, time management skills and organizational skills.”
He offers this little bit of advice. “Seek out assistance, shatter the myth that you will just be a number; you have to be your own advocate.”