Here are a few of my thoughts on problems with educational access. I’m just throwing a thought out here about the fact that some countries do not even allow some of their students the opportunity to obtain higher education – ever. Tests are administered to students at some point in their education and they are then steered in the direction deemed appropriate by the governing body. Here, in the U.S, we try to educate everyone and I am generally for giving everyone the same opportunity, but there are problems with that state of affairs, too. Even to me, some of the thoughts that are running through my mind sound a little cold and heartless and I in no way mean to sound cruel. Moreover, I am going to comment on the abuses of the system.
An abuse lies in the fact that some students receive grant money with no intention of completing class work or seeking a better quality of life, which results in a waste of money. Another culprit is student loan corporations that sometimes have the effect of causing students to accumulate enormous debt that follows them for a lifetime. It might not be a long stretch to consider the corporations as an organization that takes advantage of young, inexperienced and uninformed students due to the fact that the loans are fairly easy to access and many students do not fully understand how interest in figured and the debt that they are incurring.
I think students should be better counseled in these matters by parents, friends; somebody needs to explain the system to them. They need to understand that their access to a higher education comes at a price. At the same time, students need to understand that the global economy in which they are competing for work requires a degree of higher education not simply as a luxury, but a necessity for survival. The trend of awarding financial aid based on merit rather than need is another factor that students, high school and younger, should be taught. .
Sadly, even with all of the aforementioned counseling, some very bright students will likely be unable to attend a higher learning institution because their unmet financial need is just too great for anyone to help them.
A problem for parents and those trying to help their children is the fact that the lower and middle income classes are struggling with an economic system that is making saving and financing tuition even at a state colleges and universities a hardship and in some cases, impossibility.
This article: Ensuring Higher Education Access for All: A New Deal for Equalizing Opportunity and Enabling Hopes and Dreams found at http://www.compact.org/20th/read/ensuring_higher_education_access_for_all offers the following suggestions for leveling the playing field.
- Create a new Federal Initiative Called “AmeriCollege” that engages college undergraduates as mentors and coaches to young people interested in and applying to college. This program could be operated by the Corporation for National and Community Service as a focus funding area of the current AmeriCorps or Learn and Serve America Programs. Such a program could be run by higher education institutions in their local communities or by community organizations in the college access field. Each year, college undergraduates would be recruited, trained, and paired with 4-5 young people interested in attending college, but at risk of not attending. These undergraduates would help coach and support their team of college aspirants through the selection, admission, and financial aid processes, ensuring that they would not be alone in the process of getting to college. Ample research has shown that having someone, in addition to a school guidance counselor, assist students with the college-going process has a significant impact on a student’s matriculation success.
- Provide rewards and incentives for Higher Education Institutions who successfully recruit and retain a certain – significant – percentage of low-income students. Higher education institutions do all sorts of business with local, state and federal governments and agencies. Those governmental authorities should incorporate incentives and rewards into the application and review processes – for any and all business that they do with colleges and universities – which provide an extra benefit to those schools that reach and maintain a significant percentage of low-income students on their campus. So as to not unfairly benefit wealthier schools, incentives could also be geared to those institutions that show the greatest increases in recruitment and retention of low-income youth.
- Increased Investment in Campus Community Service and Outreach Programs. Earlier this year, Campus Compact compiled a vast collection of studies that shines an important light on the deep connections that exist between community service learning and the retention of the young people who participate in such programs. There are innumerable benefits to further investment in these programs. First, the students feel a deeper connection to their school and their community, thus making them less likely to leave, while gaining real-world experience and connections that help them secure summer jobs, school-year internships, and possible post-college employment opportunities. The local community benefits from having more trained, dedicated, committed volunteers to help solve local problems that may exist. And colleges and universities build positive relationships with the local community, breaking down some of the typical town-gown issues that crop up regularly.
Some of these efforts are taking place right now in our school. We have a peer-tutoring program that connect students with businesses, professionals and others in the community who are willing to work with the students in a type of shadowing capacity. I think we should work on implementing some of the other ideas.