Part two of a two-part article.
Part one of this article covered the impact of economic pressures on the changing enrollments at colleges and how to increase the number of high school graduates who will go on to postsecondary education.
Not Ready for College
American high schools are graduating many students who are not prepared for college and consequently, much less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers or take longer when they do graduate. According to the College Board, which writes and administers the SAT examination used by colleges to access candidates’ readiness for college, about a quarter of Idaho’s high school juniors who took the exam in April 2013 were prepared for college based on their scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing. The ACT, another exam commonly required for college entrance, showed only 26 percent of Idaho students hit benchmarks in all four categories—English, reading, mathematics and science.
Part one of a two-part article.
To compete with other states and globally, Idaho’s economy needs a skilled workforce. Postsecondary education is the key to developing those skills to innovate and thrive. Education also helps raise the quality of life of workers who receive schooling as well as for their families. Recognizing rising skill levels for many jobs and the importance of higher education in making the Idaho economy competitive, the Idaho State Board of Education set an ambitious goal for 60 percent of Idahoans 25 to 34 years old to have a degree or certificate by 2020.
To achieve this goal, Idaho’s public schools must increase student enrollment and retention. But they will be facing some headwinds. Throughout the United States colleges are under economic pressure, and a growing number of private schools are likely to face bankruptcy as pressure mounts as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities,” dated July 25, 2014.
Global competition is intensifying. The United States was the world leader in educational attainment until the 1990s. In recent years, many countries have been producing degree-holders at a higher rate. In 2011, 42 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 had associate, bachelor’s or advanced degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. lagged South Korea’s 63 percent, Japan’s 58 percent, Canada’s 56 percent, Ireland’s 48 percent, Britain’s 48 percent, Norway’s 47 percent, Luxembourg’s 46 percent, New Zealand’s 45 percent, Israel’s 44 percent and Austria’s 43 percent. In the United States, the public-private balance of expenditure on postsecondary education is nearly the reverse of the average across other OECD countries. In the U.S., public sources provide 36 percent of spending on higher education while the other nations average 68 percent.
Thousands of collegians have received their degrees and are starting – or hoping to start – careers for which they have spent four or more years studying. In the past year 1,248 students graduated from Idaho State University, many entering an economy showing signs of growth.
The tight job market graduates experienced during the past several years has loosened up.
Kailamai Hansen had a difficult childhood. She moved in and out of foster care during her teen
years and after her mom’s death, struggled with her school studies. After she transferred to an alternative high school at age 17, she began to focus on her schoolwork and graduated early.
Kailamai Hansen (Photo by Lisa Nagrou photography)
At age 18 – Kailamai like many young people who “age out” of the foster system – lacked the knowledge and skill to care for herself financially and she relied on churches and family friends. Eventually she was put in touch with the Idaho Department of Labor.
Workforce consultant Bonnie Niles worked with Kailamai and signed her up to participate in the department’s youth employment program. Funded by Workforce Investment Act dollars from the federal government, the program provides education, training and employment opportunities for low-income youth. In Kailamai’s case, it provided support for tuition and books at North Idaho College.
“I started to realize that education was my ticket to success,” Kailamai said. “It was my one way ticket to a bright future. Through your (Bonnie’s) help I have come to realize that should I dedicate myself to a task, there are people out there that will believe in me and assist me along the way.”
Kailamai received her associate degree and plans to move to Lewis Clark State College to work toward her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. After that, she would like to go to Gonzaga University and either pursue a law degree or a master’s degree in criminal justice or social work.
Most college graduates earn twice as much in their lifetime as high school graduates. And while college or training can be expensive, there are programs designed to help you cover the cost.
February is Financial Aid Awareness month – a perfect time to get your financial information together. If you are applying for FAFSA (Free Application For Federal Student Aid), you can watch a video which will take you through the 7 steps to filling out the form — from log-in to submitting and confirmation. The video also will show you what documents you need to have handy to apply (such as federal income tax returns and bank statements).
You can use this calendar to see if there is a Financial Aid night in your area.
Looking for scholarship options? There are thousands of awards out there – from those for Idaho residents to scholarships for your area of study (such as nursing). Scholarships are organized by category or title on the Idaho Career Information System website to make it easier for you to find what you want.
Many schools offer work-study programs and state and federal grants are often available based on need.
Take the time to check out all the options available to you.