Diverse Conversations: What Minority High School Students Need to Know About College - Higher Education
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Diverse Conversations: What Minority High School Students Need to Know About College

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by Matthew Lynch

It’s a well-known fact that a college education is becoming necessary for many jobs. Companies are listing bachelor’s degrees as requirements on vacancy announcements, automatically screening out anyone who doesn’t have the required education. In addition, as technology replaces the work of employees in certain traditionally unskilled labor positions, the number of opportunities for those with just a high school diploma only seems to shrink.

However, going to college isn’t an automatic choice for many. In fact, what they are taught in high school about the college experience has a major impact on a student’s decision. So, what should we be teaching minority high school students about college? Here are some places to start.

How to pay for it

One of the most intimidating things about going to college is the cost. Stories about graduates drowning in student loan debt are plentiful, making many hesitant to take loans even if they are offered. In addition, for students from particularly low-income families, just seeing the number associated with a school’s annual tuition may be more than they can manage mentally.

It is critical that minority students have a thorough understanding of all of the options for paying tuition. This includes everything from need-based government grants, such as the federal Pell Grant, to merit-based institutional scholarships to private scholarship opportunities offered by industry organizations and charities.

Taking the time to teach minority students about what is available, as well as how to apply for these funds, can make the financial burden more manageable, or even non-existent. As financial barriers are removed, more high school students may be able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a college education.

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Range of options

Going to college doesn’t mean you have to pursue a traditional four-year degree. Currently, there is a looming shortage of skilled tradespeople such as welders, electricians, machinists, plumbers, and carpenters. In addition, that shortage means there are significant opportunities for those interested in exploring these careers.

Often, obtaining education focused on a skilled trade is less expensive than a traditional university education, and many programs can be completed in just a couple of years. In some cases, those attending classes can gain experience through apprenticeships, allowing them to work on their education while earning wages.

In addition, many programs focused on skilled trades don’t require the same general education requirements as a four-year degree. That means that, if a student struggled in classes like history or literature, it is a non-issue for completing many trade-oriented programs.

Helping high school students understand that these options are available can encourage those who may think that a college education isn’t for them to reconsider.

Help for struggling students

Colleges and universities often have departments and services created to help students succeed. This includes access to tutors and study groups. In addition, some college instructors are available outside of their classroom hours to assist students who want to learn but are having trouble grasping a particular topic.

Institutions of higher learning want their students to succeed, so there are mechanisms in place to help make the dream of obtaining a degree a reality. However, students need to know that they are there when assistance is needed.

With the right information, more minority students may feel comfortable pursuing more education once they graduate from high school. By managing concerns about tuition costs, educational requirements, available programs, and the availability of assistance, the college experience may feel more accessible to everyone.

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Matthew Lynch is a higher education consultant and owner of Lynch Consulting Group, LLC. He currently resides in Richmond, Virginia.

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