Here’s why most young adults who start college don’t finish as explained by one of them, 24-year-old Frankie Barria of New York:
When I started college, I was living on my own at age 19. It was just unbelievably hard to maintain my job and a good GPA. Having a roof over my head and food to eat became more important to me
Barria was part of an hour-long conference call Wednesday on new report on why so many students start and never finish degrees, a problem that President Obama says jeopardizes America’s economic future.
Public Agenda surveyed more than 600 individuals aged 22 to 30 for its new report, “With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them.”
The study compared the views of students who started, but did not finish, their college education with those who received a degree or certificate. The national survey, which also included focus groups in five cities, was underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to Jean Johnson of Public Agenda, six out 10 students who don’t finish report they receive no tuition help from their parents. “A lot of us think college is the place where a young person goes and they become an adult. If you look at these young people who are not graduating, so many have already assumed adult responsibilities. They already had to limit their choices because of the reality of their lives.”
When I looked at the survey, I was struck by two facts: How many students felt they received fair or poor guidance from high school counselors about college and how many chose a college because it was convenient, citing location, cost and how well classes meshed with their work schedules.
Going back to the interview I did earlier this fall with one of the authors of “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities,” I recalled the bottom line advice from the book: Go to the best college you can. The more competitive the college, the more likely students will graduate because the culture expects graduation.
Johnson wants the Public Agenda survey to prod colleges and universities to recognize the vastly different lives of their students and think of ways that they can better help students who have no family supports since they are the most likely to fall to the wayside.
Hilary Pennington, the director of education, postsecondary success and special initiatives at the Gates Foundation, said she believed that once colleges accept students’ tuition checks, they have to commit to working with students to finish school by providing supports along the way.
I also would suggest that we look at the direction that college counselors are giving students, especially those who would be the first in the family to ever attend college.
What do you think? (Look at the report. It has interesting stuff.)