To Degree or Not To Degree?
According to the research conducted by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, 90% of high-school students want to obtain a college degree. Less than 70% are enrolled in college, indicates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Then, fewer than 60% of college students go on to complete a degree or certificate within six years of entering a post-secondary institution, as per The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The average college tuition is rising fast and graduates are left with the burden of student loan debts costing them $40,000 on average.
So why is a college degree so desirable? Studies conducted by the American Institute for Economic Research have findings that suggest that on average a college graduate earns $22,000 more per year than a high-school graduate. Additionally, the gap has been expanding. With the looming risk of artificial intelligence taking over our jobs, especially in fields that require relatively less knowledge or specific skills, a college education is becoming a pre-requisite for a safe and fulfilling future.
The Competitiveness of College Admissions
As such, it is not a surprise that the process of college admissions has become increasingly competitive. High-school graduates apply to multiple colleges to increase their odds of admission. As many as 36% of graduating seniors submit their applications to more than 7 colleges, according to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. This results in an average of almost 850 applications to be reviewed by a college admissions officer. This changing reality of the admissions process now requires that an applicant must stand out in a crowd of other candidates. Good grades are no longer enough. There are test scores, APs, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, sports, achievements, community service, so much more. Most students and their families need college counselors to navigate an intensely competitive admissions process.
How Soon Is Too Soon?
Some families start thinking about their children’s college future as early as in middle school. Why? Because choosing your child’s high-school can play a big role when it is time to apply to college. Building a story that will attract the attention of top colleges will take time. Some experts may have a view that middle school is too early to be making plans for college and that this can create unnecessary stress. On the other hand, one would look foolish waiting to prepare for college a few months before the application deadline due. This is simply too late. The bottom line is that many parents and their children have college planning on their minds for a few years prior to applying.
Research conducted among working parents shows that for 92% of them consider their children’s education of utmost importance, which is not surprising. It is noteworthy however, that 70% of these parents are seriously concerned about their children’s college orientation and readiness, be it selecting the right colleges, getting ready for the admissions process, or bearing the cost of post-secondary education.
Honey, We Need A Counselor!
Most parents realize early on that the process of getting ready for college admissions is not the same as when they were applying to school. It is even more difficult for those who never went to college. This exact reason is why every US high-school should provide their students with college guidance. But according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 30% of public high-schools have college counseling staff. Some schools have to share counselors. Many counselors have to dedicate a significant part of their time to necessary functions like coordinating various types of academic testing and other non-counseling tasks. The result? On average, a student spends under 40 minutes with their counselor per year. Counselors make their best effort and often resort to group coaching, which is not an overly effective way to help kids build their unique college candidate stories. Private or independent college counseling is a great alternative – when a family can afford it. But many families can’t. The average cost of a counseling package that covers the 11th and 12th grade can cost upwards of $5,000 in a larger urban population like Los Angeles or New York. Plus, there is no limit to how much one can spend.
Many institutions are trying to fill this gap in support. Schools that have more resources than most may provide summer support for children who don’t receive college counseling at their own institution. NGOs like College Possible, and the College Advising Corps will bring together funds and experts who are ready to work pro bono, providing college-bound high-school students crucial admissions guidance. Recently, innovative technology has also joined the effort. MyKlovr, a New York technology start-up, is one such example. “We have developed an artificial intelligence enabled virtual college counseling platform that can either provide guidance in absence of a human college counselor or better still, can augment the capacity of overstretched school college counselors.’ says Peter Jurjewicz, the company’s Chief Strategy Officer.
Why Should Employers Care?
Employers can be well advised to recognize the anxiety of college admissions. Up to 20% of the United States active workforce have high-school aged children. And the parents of these future college students belong to one of the most productive age demographics: 35-55 year-olds. Why does this matter? As much as 55% of working parents consider that they should be more involved in their children’s college preparation and this sense of anxiety does not help an employee’s productivity. It is simply much easier to focus on the job when we know that the things at home, particularly the important ones like our children’s future education goals, are taken care of.
Employees today, particularly the Millennials, who will soon become the majority of the workforce, expect their employers to pay attention to these significant events in their lives. As many as 70% of working parents expect their employer to be interested in their family’s well-being. Many employers see this as an opportunity to strengthen their employer value proposition by offering non-traditional employee benefits like child care subsidies or virtual college counseling. They leverage these rewards to build stronger relationships with their employees, increase their loyalty and help their productivity, all the while giving themselves an edge when hiring new talent.
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