“Three seniors at Brooklyn, New York high schools are determined to get their entire classes to college, even though they aren't even sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as college counselors in their three schools because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support.”
Does this resemble your high school? Why or why not?
What would you do if your school lacked college planning resources?
Unfortunately, some public high schools lack the funding to support a college resource center. Some school counselors can only spend 22% of their time to work with students planning to go to college. They also have to do mental health counseling, check on attendance, volunteer as bus monitors, administrative duties, and much, much more. While private high schools may have better resources and support, rural and urban public high schools need help building a college-going culture on their campus.
This is one reason why this documentary was filmed. To help the general public understand what students have to do to apply for college and why it can be hard for many. It’s the raw and the real.
Only 16% of students from low-income backgrounds obtain a bachelor’s degree, in comparison to 60% of students from high-income backgrounds.
To help fill the gap, many organizations and CBOs (Community Based Organizations) are working to provide the college-going resources needed for these students. However, school counselors and peer leaders are still needed. People (not programs) are the key!
“PERSONAL STATEMENT is a feature-length documentary that follows Karoline, Christine and Enoch through their senior year and into college. They work tirelessly as peer college counselors to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college.”
I had the opportunity to preview Personal Statement during the 2018 NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City (a conference for college counselors).
You’ll laugh at what happens at the dinner table. You’ll feel the suspense when the students open their acceptance notices. You’ll see the determination of three students. You’ll learn how hard it was for one student to simply fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll understand how their life experience becomes their personal statement.
There are thousands of high-achieving students who don’t know HOW or WHEN or WHERE to submit a college application. And there are hundreds of school counselors that desperately want to guide their students to discover the right fit college and career.
This is why I am encouraging all policy makers, parents, principals and people interested in higher education to watch and support this documentary. Especially if you work with low-income or first-generation college students!
HOW TO WATCH
Use this episode link: http://bit.ly/ARF_PersonalStmt to stream the film online.
You can check your local PBS station schedule to see when PERSONAL STATEMENT will be broadcast by your local PBS affiliate here: https://www.thirteen.org/schedule/
HOW TO SUPPORT
To help spread the message of this documentary, donate here. To make an immediate impact and support the college expenses of the main characters in the film (like Karoline above), donate here.
After watching the documentary, share your thoughts below…
Autumn A. Arnett (Education Dive) points out some changes to the Department of Education (DOE) data that I believe could reshape the success rates (and those treasured rankings) in higher education.
She writes that “many institutions hide poor outcomes for lower income students by enrolling fewer of these students and lumping their graduation and retention data in with that of more affluent students, who are naturally better prepared to succeed on campus. However, with more students coming from lower income backgrounds than ever before, shedding light on how well schools are or aren't serving them could be a critical first step to actually ensuring their success, which is critical to meeting national security and workforce demands.”
Reporting this new data could elevate Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) as affordable examples of college success. In 2014-2015, there were around 700 MSIs (14% of all colleges) that enrolled 4.8 million students (28% of all undergrads).
Arnett continues, “Though often the lowest resourced institutions and traditionally raked over the coals for their often dismal graduation rates, data has shown that when controlled for the same population — that is largely Pell grant recipients and students of color — these institutions actually do a better job of retaining and graduating these students. And they're doing it with less money, which could serve as a lesson for the industry as a whole as it continues to struggle with declining public support against the reality that these students are more expensive to educate.”
Reporting this new data could slow the annual 4.0-4.5% rise in college tuition. Some students are paying a quarter of a million dollars to earn a four-year bachelor’s of science in biology. This makes sense when you equate the quality higher education with higher costs. As students (and their parents) compare the cost with the outcomes, they will begin to attend more affordable schools. In the long run, this may help drive costs down.
Reporting this new data could help prospective college freshman understand that “where you go is not who you’ll be” as Frank Bruni shared. This is echoed in the Gallup-Purdue University survey that shows the learning and living experiences in college impacted their future more than the type of institution they attended. The data will allow parents to consider all outcomes (full-time, part-time, transfer, Pell grant recipients…) to inform their decisions.
Generation Z students understand the need for higher education. And they do not want to pay for what they don't need. They are not as concerned with athletic programs and dorm life and are more concerned about earning a degree.
In Pulling Back the Curtain (ACE and CPRS), they show that minority serving institutions have better than average outcomes. Consider the completion rate (students who completed their degree at their starting institution within 6 years) for public full time students. (NOTE: MSIs have received federal recognition between 1965 and 2008.)
The report rightly states that their "analysis cannot directly speak to the quality of education offered by these institutions (PBTC, p8)" but it looks like these MSIs are producing college graduates! That is one HUGE step in the right direction.
Eventually, this new data will improve conversations with college-bound students and their parents and help them make better decisions about continuing their education.
A few years ago, David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote an article discussing the benefits of marginal students graduating with a bachelor’s degree.
Marginal students would be those with low GPAs and/or low standardized testing scores. They are on the outside looking in.
Two studies researching marginal students showed that half of the students from Georgia who were admitted earned bachelor’s degrees and in Florida, admitted students earned twenty-two percent more than those just below the admissions cutoff who didn’t attend college.
Economist Seth Zimmerman, shocked by the results of his Florida study, said, “If you give these students a shot, they’re ready to succeed.”
The two most important aspects of educational success for all students are reading and parental interaction. Knowing the benefits of higher education, parents need to be intentional about having college planning conversations.
Discuss the benefits of going to college with your teenagers in everyday conversations. “When you attend college…” “With the connections you make in college…” “As you are preparing for your future career…” “When you graduate with your bachelor’s degree…”
Help them visualize walking on campus, being successful, and overcoming obstacles.
Research shows that persistence increases with each subsequent family member that attends and/or graduates from college. Even parents who did not graduate high school support their student’s desire to attend college.
In addition, teaming up with an educational consultant or school counselor so they can recommend the right careers and place them in the right colleges is an important part of giving marginal students a chance to enroll.
Leonhardt shared that the two independent studies showed that “enrolling in a four-year college brings large benefits to marginal students.” Marginal students who are given a chance to challenge themselves can be successful. Research shows that “students do better when they stretch themselves and attend the most selective college that admits them, rather than undermatching.”
Calen, at twenty-nine years old did not graduate high school or earn his GED. Yet, he enrolled in college and at the end of one semester, his grade in calculus was a 97! He earned his bachelor’s degree and is working on his master’s degree.
Even with a national six-year graduation rate at fifty-six percent, some don’t believe marginal students should be encouraged to attend college because of the debt incurred. Yet, “most people with no college education are struggling mightily in the 21st-century economy.”
Since attending college benefits everyone, we need to support our students and help them attend college.
And remind them of the benefits of a graduating with a bachelor’s degree – which is better than just attending.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.