Bridging the Gap: Rethinking Pathways to University


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Collectively and individually, survival and prosperity depend on an education that enables a person to find a rewarding niche. Throughout the 20th century, “higher education” generally meant at least a four-year liberal arts or science degree, undertaken immediately after high school.

This paradigm is seriously frayed. About 40 percent of students who enroll in college never graduate. And public confidence in the benefits of higher education has declined, with a Pew Research poll revealing 38% believe colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things go, up 12 points percentage in just seven years. Meanwhile, a flawed student loan system has fueled rising tuition fees and burdened individuals with massive debt that cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy.

The administrators of the Hudson Valley educators are keenly aware of the crisis and have taken steps to address its components. This is what gave the impetus to “Rethinking College,” a virtual conference hosted last month by Bard Early College, which saw two high school dual-track New York students moderate a discussion with Roberto J Rodriguez, deputy secretary of planning, evaluation and policy development at the Department of Education, and Kevin Carey, vice president of education policy and knowledge management at the New America think tank . What has emerged is that young adults are far more capable than the old paradigm attributes to them, but they are in dire need of opportunities surrounded by support.

An advance

Bard’s Early College Program, begun with the founding of a private residential outpost in 1979 and more fully articulated in President Leon Botstein’s 1997 book Jefferson’s Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture, surged in before around the turn of the century, when the school embarked on the creation of a multi-site public network of early childhood colleges.

Two decades later, there are seven tuition-free satellite campuses co-located with high schools in Manhattan, Queens, Newark, New Orleans, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Students – most low-income, about 75% students of color, and about half the first in their families to attend college – can graduate with 60 college credits and an AA degree. A related program, the Bard Sequence, partners with 14 districts through the Local Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to provide personalized learning and credit opportunities at the college level.

Traditional colleges need to do a better job supporting students in their transition to adult learning, says Carey. “The industry tends to focus on throughput and enrollment and not be responsible for the quality of education or the success of the career transition. Some go to college and end up in a worse situation. We need to refocus on the needs of students, which are almost as diverse as the human condition. ”

Educators agree that an opportunity to pursue college or other career-oriented options should be available in mid-teens or even earlier, and connectivity between high school and post-secondary education is lacking. In the traditional American system, Carey notes, the two levels are “funded and governed in completely different ways and beyond that there is a completely different collective perspective on the balance of responsibilities between student and institution – it created a chasm with a rocky bridge between what should really be close, ”says Carey.

Preparation for life

Other private colleges in the Hudson Valley are actively trying to replace this rickety bridge with a smooth, well-paved span. Marist offers an award-winning summer pre-college where high school students can immerse themselves in any of 13 courses over three weeks, earning early credit while getting a taste of what the experience entails. Vassar offers the Exploring College program, where high school students, mostly from neighboring public schools in Poughkeepsie, can access preparation workshops, tutoring, and community development activities, as well as a class. three-week summer intensive.

“We are fortunate to have so many great bridging programs, and Exploring College gives students a chance to see what studying with a professor is like and to be motivated, to see a path,” said Elizabeth Bradley , president of Vassar College. “But the whole concept of life preparation has to start much earlier, with secondary and even early childhood educators presenting a panoply of ways for students to improve their well-being and livelihoods. Boot camps, vocational programs – a wide variety of offerings help reduce high school dropout rates and better prepare learners for the next stage in life.

BOCES has offered teens a chance to dive into the waters of career preparation for over 70 years, providing shared services to school districts to help them achieve educational and financial goals that would be difficult on their own. “We offer 26 professional and technical concentrations in our center in Port Ewen, ranging from aviation and computer technology to animal science and fashion design, and our aim is to inspire and train employable and good people. , as well as becoming an economic engine so that graduates have a direct and reliable path to the skilled trades and the jobs that are actually available, ”says Peter Harris, director of learning and design for Career Pathways programs at Ulster County BOCES. “Right now we have a group of six kids – we call them young professionals – earning very high salaries by installing split heat pumps, using what they’ve learned in our HVAC programs and electricity. Oh, and they’re employed by a graduate of the program.

Harris says vocational and technical education programs still meet some resistance, although it’s clear that getting excited about the future can help keep a student long enough to earn a Regents degree that will allow them to pursue n any option he can possibly explore. “We want to make sure the children have relevant internships and day schools; with our synthesis program, no student completes their final year without having been exposed to industry, ”he says. “You would think that would be the norm everywhere, but educators tend to regard class time as sacred. We’re trying to break that mold and get them out, where they can hang on to something.

Like Bradley, Harris would like to see practical preparation for the real world start much younger. “In homeschools and sixth grade careers, we give kids a career interest survey. I think my child’s results were artist and surgeon, ”he says. “But then they spend years in class not being able to explore what their results might actually mean. Children are capable of much more than they are allowed to do, and I think much earlier exposure to vocational and technical education would be very productive.

Student support is crucial

Soft skills – personal foundations that make it possible to function no matter what path you choose – can be a natural byproduct of earlier exposure to the chance to immerse yourself in your passion, whether academic or technical or both. This side effect, combined with a greater awareness of social and emotional learning needs, makes the rickety bridge easier to cross. As it is, many students enter college without essential skills such as time management.

“The colleges do a great job of recruiting, but not so well in terms of scaffolding support,” Rodriguez told the Bard conference, saying that while he was lucky enough to be well prepared, his fellow students University of Michigan classrooms have often floundered when exposed to large lectures, unsupervised study routines, and the need to make curriculum choices at the same time. “Student support must be a priority not only for obtaining credits, but also for maintaining mental and psychosocial health on a daily basis. ”

Almost 40 percent of those who drop out of college do so for financial reasons. Dual credit programs solve part of the problem, but need-based Pell Grants, which covered over 75 percent of the cost of attending public colleges in the 1970s, now cover less than 30 percent. The industry of secured student loans, intended to supplement work-study programs, scholarships and scholarships, has been hit by the disease of predatory capitalism. Private colleges are grappling with affordability on several fronts.

In an email, Marist College President Kevin Weinman outlined a strategy for engaging in needs-based support: managing funding allocations to meet that commitment, finding diverse funding sources and solid and manage costs; this support, he stresses, must cover the expenses of study abroad, internships, tutoring and other vital elements. Weinman and his wife just announced their own donation of $ 250,000 to the school for access and equity initiatives.

But no single family or institution can fix the mess on its own and make higher education what it should be: a broad road to self-fulfillment and self-sufficiency with a ramp for everyone. “We must remember that our public education system was designed by a committee of 10 people in the 1890s, with the goal of US dominance in the economy and war, ”says Harris,“ and a lot of rote learning built in. Teens today are likely to change what they do seven times in their working lives, and we desperately need dynamic, viable options that improve their process of becoming who they are.


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