"College and Career Ready" May Not Mean What You Think It Means

The TulsaKids 2017-2018 College Planner will soon be available to help families plan the next step after high school graduation.

We just finished putting together TulsaKids annual College Planner for high school students and their parents. Every year we try to come up with relevant information to include. For example, last year, we let readers know the new FAFSA filing date. And we define that new buzzword, “demonstrated interest.” We hope that you will pick up a copy at your kid’s high school or have your teen pick one up. Many high school counselors use them, and we’ll have them available at most of the college fairs this fall and spring.

While many kids are fortunate, as mine were, to go directly from high school to college, many are not. And, I had a dad who was a college professor, so college was a given, as it was for most of my friends. That gave me the know-how to navigate the college admission process, and subsequently the grad-school process. It’s not something that you just “know,” and it has only become more complicated over the years – mainly because the cost of college has gone up way beyond most people’s ability to pay for it. That, coupled with many parents feeling that their kids will be total losers if they don’t go to the “right” (big-name) school makes the whole process confusing and angst-ridden.

From my experience with three kids going to college and then two going to graduate school, my advice would be to let them figure it out, while being a “guide” – like most things with being the parent of an adolescent. As the adult, you can talk about how it doesn’t matter as much where you go as what you do with it. And talk about money, loans – especially paying back loans – graduate school, even. If your kids are like mine and aren’t STEM kids, it doesn’t mean they’ll never be employed. Really. I have three liberal arts majors, two gainfully employed in jobs they like, and one working on a PhD (paid for by the university). So, don’t be afraid when your kid wants to major in journalism or comparative literature or Spanish. There are jobs for those willing to work hard and find a place.

One of the reasons I wanted to do a College Planner years ago was that I know that most kids and parents are not familiar with what you do to prepare for, choose, and then go to college or some other post-high school institution. Students and parents actually can plan for it strategically rather than letting it just “happen.” When I went to college in the dark ages, tuition was low enough that my parents, who had saved for it, could pay my tuition, and then I could work and pay for rent, food, and incidentals. Tuition is too costly for the majority of families to do that today.

The “average” college student has changed as well. This Op-ed, “The Biggest Misconception About Today’s College Students” was in the New York Times on Aug. 28, 2017. It was written by Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College. I found the statistics interesting. For instance, Mellow writes, “You might think the typical college student lives in a state of bliss, spending each day moving among classes, parties and extracurricular activities. But the reality is that an increasingly small population of undergraduates enjoys that kind of life.”

Statistics show, according to Mellow, that:

  • More than 40% of undergraduates go to community college
  • Of those, only 62% can afford to go to college full-time
  • 0.4% of students in the U.S. go to Ivy League colleges
  • More than 50% of undergrads live at home to make degrees more affordable
  • 40% of students work at least 30 hours a week
  • 25% work full-time and go to school full-time
  • 25% of undergrads are older than 25
  • approximately 25% are single parents

Additionally, the article says, “A recent Urban Institute study found that from 2011 to 2015, one in five students attending a two-year college lived in a food-insecure household.”

Financial and life pressures are serious challenges for many students who are trying to go to college or post-secondary institutions. My hope is that the 2017-18 College Planner will offer beneficial information to students and parents across the spectrum, from those wishing to take advantage of Tulsa Community College’s free tuition through the Tulsa Achieves program to Oklahoma’s Promise to students who are applying to extremely competitive schools who need tips on interviewing and essay writing.

Knowledge and preparation are good things. The staff of TulsaKids wants to help.

Categories: Editor’s Blog