- A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California reveals that while nearly two-thirds of current 9th-graders are expected to enter a two- or four-year college after high school, only about 30% of those will complete it, EdSource reports.
- The report cites a combination of weak high school preparation, poor counseling of students in high school and unclear direction at the college level as reasons for this failure.
- The report notes that California high school graduation standards are weaker than what state colleges in California demand and that many students don’t take appropriately rigorous courses as a result.
While graduation rates are trending upward across the nation, fewer students are heading to college. There are practical reasons for this including the rising cost of college education, but the reality is that many students who do enter college are not prepared academically to remain there. As schools seek to boost graduation rates, some are offering less rigorous courses to meet graduation requirements. And without proper guidance, most students will seek out those less rigorous courses rather than gravitating to classes that offer more of a challenge and better preparation.
Schools nationwide need to do a better job at connecting with students and helping them find the best pathway to success, not just at the high school level, but beyond. This needs to begin early — in 8th or 9th grade at the latest — because successful preparation for college involves all four years of high school. Preparing students for the future requires personalized career planning and goal-setting strategies that may be more than current school counseling staff can handle, especially when many are dealing with students facing crisis situations as well. Increasing the number of school guidance counselors may be a good way to address this issue.
However, all students are not headed for college, nor should they be. There are great opportunities for lucrative careers now that do not require a two- or four-year college degree. Some states, such as Louisiana and North Carolina, offer two high school graduation tracks — one that prepares students for the rigors of state universities and another that prepares them for a career. Schools need to be actively engaged with students throughout their high school careers to maximize their opportunities in the future no matter what pathway they choose, offering career and technical education and apprenticeship opportunities for those who may not otherwise seek a postsecondary degree.