Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Qualified HS Graduates Don't Go to College

by Daniel Bennett

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) recently released a report that indicates that:
(1) Most non-college-goers believed the cost of college was too high
(2) Many non-college-goers felt that they needed to work
(3) Some non-college-goers are unwilling to borrow to cover the cost of college
(4) Some non-college-goers expressed uncertainty about their academic preparations
(5) Very few non-college-goers took any of the necessary steps to enroll in college
IHEP's conclusions are based on a sample of 1,800+ students, 600guidance counselors and roundtable discussions.

None of the findings come as a surprise to me, but it is always good to have good research that confirms our suspicions. The report does discuss an apparent disconnect between the student's reasons for not going to college and the perceptions of guidance counselors. This reaffirms my belief that the guidance counseling being provided in high schools is not very effective.

IHEP offers policy options concerning financial aid, opportunity cost and expectations. One option aimed to address expectations is to mandate a college planning course in middle school, so that students can start to think about these things at an earlier age. This is a very tangible and realistic idea that should help to reduce the information gap. In additon to this, school districts could organize more and earlier career fairs, in which employers and area college officers are available to answer student's questions.

The report also mentions, although it does not seem to advocate, a mandatory college prep curriculum for all students. I would scoff at standardized curriculum, as not all students want to go to college and we should allow them other opportunities for a successful career, such as vocational and technical training and opportunities with the military, which provide generous college benefits, by the way.


Cowboy said...


I don't know how effective or useful guidance counselors are, but I have a high schooler that won't take the time to consult her guidance counselor, despite my repeated recommendations. I thought she should at least give it a try to see what advice she could get - even though she knows everything already. Therein lies the problem. As a side note, I was never like that!

I started flying at the age of 15. In my junior or senior year (I'm begininng to forget things) I went to the guidance counselor to discuss what I wanted to do for a career. I told her I wanted to fly for an airline. So she hooked me up with the USAF ROTC. The plan was that after college I would go to flight school and serve. I would then leave the USAF and fly for an airline. After much thought, I decided not to take that path. As it turns out, it was a good decision - I got Type II diabetes about the age of 45 - which would have immediately grounded me. I can't even get a private pilots license now.

My point is that, while your point is well taken and sensible, a guidance counselor's effectiveness can only truly be measured if they get customers.

Cowboy said...

Interesting Business School Rankings from "Business Week" at:

stefny said...

Fairly interesting rankings from the Center for College Affordability & Productivity , a two year old research organization in Washington, D.C. with a free-market bent.
Rankings are based on:1. Student evaluations posted on ,2. College graduation rates,3. Percent of students winning awards like Rhodes Scholarships and undergraduate Fulbright travel grants,4. Vocational success using Who's Who in America .


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