Poor college-bound students making poor decisions?

Once again, poor students are blamed for making a foolish decision to pursue college when they could have went after a cheaper and shorter-term vocational training program. A report from the Gates Foundation, reported through the Chronicle of Higher Education, states too many poor students are unemployed after attending college. The report recommends they consider alternative options for less expensive postsecondary education. (See summary of report from the Chronicle). http://chronicle.com/article/Many-Young-Adults-in-Povert/65826/

Let's change the focus of the problem to include the institution. What did they do to support the poor students (or any of their students for that matter)? These issues are even more important for poor students who are most often first-generation in their families to go to college. They are often historically-underrepresented at the college as well. They lack the social capital and support that other students enjoy. 

  • Academic advisors: Did they provide quality academic advising for the student that did more than just help them schedule classes? How long did those advising sessions last? Did they explore why the student was pursuing a partitucle academic major and future career aspirations? Especially if they are faculty members, do the academic advisors receive any training to do their job?
  • Course instructors: Did they include anything in their courses on how to take what happened in class and help them interpret it for usefulness in the job market or did they just teach abstract concepts in class with no relevance?
  • Student affairs: How sufficient is the number of counselors and career advisors to serve the number of students? Do they provide services for undecided majors? Do they even have a center for career guidance? If so, does it offer seminars for interviewing skills, resume building, and the like. Are these services available when students need them like evenings and weekends?

Like anything, the answers are always more complex. Students have a part in this, but the institution has an even bigger responsibility to support their students (and alumni) with life time success.

From the Chroncile of Higher Education:  Many Young Adults in Poverty Have a College Degree, Report Says By Sara Lipka  http://chronicle.com/article/Many-Young-Adults-in-Povert/65826/

Increasing proportions of low-income young adults are pursuing higher education, but some remain poor even with a postsecondary degree, according to a new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy. In 2008, among Americans ages 18 to 26 whose total household income was near or below the federal poverty level, 47 percent were or had been enrolled in college, compared with 42 percent in 2000. Eleven percent of them had earned a degree, a proportion roughly equivalent to that eight years ago, according to the report, which is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The institute is a nonprofit group in Washington that conducts public-policy research to encourage access and success in higher education.

In introducing its report, the group called into question President Obama's declaration in his State of the Union address in January that "the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education." Poor students go to college academically unprepared, the report says, and, amid competing family and work obligations, they accumulate debt "that could have been avoided by pursuing a different type of degree or a credential."

None of the 11 percent of low-income graduates should remain in poverty, said Gregory S. Kienzl, director of research and evaluation at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. "If you have a degree, you should no longer be poor," he said. Across all racial and ethnic groups, greater proportions of low-income young adults were or had been enrolled in college in 2008, compared with 2000. Hispanic students showed the largest percentage-point increase, to 37 percent from 29 percent. Low-income Asian and Pacific Islander and white students enrolled at the highest rates in 2008, 62 percent and 51 percent, respectively; the greatest proportions of low-income degree holders were also from those groups.

The report, "A Portrait of Low-Income Young Adults in Education," is the first in a series financed in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The next report will focus on attendance and enrollment patterns among low-income students, Mr. Kienzl said, including that black and Hispanic women more often attend for-profit institutions than public four-year colleges.