An excellent student from a blue-collar family in Canada, Kathy Shaidle thinks not going to university was “one of the smartest decisions of my life.” With a two-year media degree from a community college, she launched a successful career and “paid off my relatively puny student loans in short order.”
High schools got so-so marks from most 18- to 24-year-olds in an AP-Viacom poll: Only 42 percent were strongly satisfied with their high school education, while a fifth were unsatisfied. College students and graduates were much happier with their education: 59 percent were “very” or “extremely” satisfied.
While most were satisfied with college-prep classes, they said high school counselors didn’t help them choose the right college or vocational school or find college aid. And high school students got little guidance in choosing a career or field of study, they said.
While nearly two-thirds want to get at least a four-year degree, about half will not reach that goal, AP notes. Only a third of today’s 25- to 34-year-olds have earned a bachelor’s degree and less than 10 percent get an associate’s degree.
So getting students ready for work remains central to high schools’ mission. And most young people say their school didn’t do a good job of preparing them for work or helping them choose a future career. They also give high schools low marks on exposing them to the latest technology in their field and helping them get work experience, according to the poll conducted in partnership with Stanford University.
A strong majority of college students and recent graduates said their college prepared them for employment, helped them choose a field of study, exposed them to new technology and helped with internships and college aid.
Forty percent say their high school or college teachers helped them significantly; less than 25 percent say counselors were a lot of help.
High school counselors didn’t provide much help with college or career planning, young adults tell Public Agenda. In a national survey, Can I Get A Little Advice Here?, 60 percent of those who went on to higher education “gave their high school counselors poor grades for their college advice.” Nearly half said they felt like “just a face in the crowd.”
Many high school counselors are overwhelmed with students in crisis and have little time for anything else.
Downtown College Prep, the charter school in my book, Our School, invests a lot in helping students and their parents understand what it means to prepare for college, how to pay for it and how to succeed once you get there. It’s essential for students who are the first in their families to aspire to college.
KQED Radio’s Michael Krasny is hosting a special two-hour broadcast on first-generation college students from Downtown College Prep in San Jose on March 10. To join the live audience, call (415) 553-3300, or email email@example.com.
To be “relevant” to students, some colleges are dropping unpopular classics and philosophy majors and pushing career prep, reports the New York Times.
The University of Louisiana, Lafayette, is eliminating its philosophy major, while Michigan State University is doing away with American studies and classics, after years of declining enrollments in those majors.
And in a class called “The English Major in the Workplace,” at the University of Texas, Austin, students read “Death of a Salesman” but also learn to network, write a résumé and come off well in an interview.
Students and their parents want a return on their degree — in dollars and cents, not enlightenment. In 1971, 37 percent of UCLA freshmen said it was essential or very important to be “very well-off financially,” while 73 percent said the same about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” In 2009, 78 percent identified wealth as a goal, while 48 percent were after a meaningful philosophy.
Business has been the top major for 15 years. Now students also are turning to health fields, environmental science and bio-anything. Chinese and Arabic are hot, while French and German are not.
Employers surveyed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities take a broader view:
. . . 89 percent said they wanted more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing,” 81 percent asked for better “critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills” and 70 percent were looking for “the ability to innovate and be creative.”
I majored in English and Creative Writing.