They Are Not Alone

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<ul><li>1. 10 October They Are Not AloneRecommended strategies to help young people without college degrees in Northeast Ohio address their concerns about attaining a postsecondary credential A report prepared by Public Agenda for The Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education t ht h6 East 39 Street, 9Floor New York, NY 10016</li></ul><p>2. T HEY A RE N OT A LONE Recommend ed strategies to help young people without college degrees in Northeast Ohio address the ir concerns about attaining a post secondary credential Findings drawn from focus groups with young adults that discussed interventions currently in practice The more educated a regions population, the more robust its economy will be. To encourage leaders to focus on the relationship between education and the economy, CEOs for Cities has calculated the economic value to cities and the nation of increasing college attainment rates by one percentage point. NOCHE (The Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education) recognizes the importance of this and has outlined three strategic goals for the region to increase college readiness, college degree completion and degree attainment among adults with some college or that dont have a degree. In the summer of 2010, Public Agenda worked in consultation with NOCHE to conduct research focused on a small segment of the Northeast Ohio population that is critical to engage in order to meet these strategic goals young adults aged 18 to 24 who have graduated high school but do not have a college degree. Talking to this group of young adults allowed us to uncover what they really think about their current situation, what would help them to go back to school and what would have helped them transition more easily from high school to college. As part of this research, Public Agenda presented young adults with interventions that have been implemented around the country and asked them which ones they thought would work and why. From their responses we saw that the interventions that received the most attention and support centered around three basic concerns: 1. Not having the time and money to go to college. While many young adults believe that college is important and fully expect to eventually earn a degree, they talked about financial concerns and the need to have a job as the greatest barriers to enrollment. 2. Not having enough support from people who would hold them accountable and encourage them in their educational pursuits. Young adults fear that they will lack adequate support networks in college and be left to navigate the social and academic intricacies of college on their own. Many also said that they have rarely been held accountable for their own successes and failures, and without people looking out for them in college their academic success is less likely. 3. Lack of information and communication about what to expect at college. Many of the concerns that these young adults face are already being addressed at higher education institutions throughout Northeast Ohio often with the interventions these young adults most favor. But it is clear that awareness of these interventions is low and that many are apprehensive about struggling alone in their pursuit of higher education. As the college experience is new and foreign to most of these young adults, they worry about what they are getting themselves into. Page 2 3. We hope that in reviewing our findings, you see how young adults in your community express their concerns. As you read which interventions resonated with them, keep the following in mind: While we spoke only with young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who are not currently enrolled in a post-secondary program and dont hold a postsecondary degree, we believe that the findings provide some guidance for all three of NOCHEs strategic goals. As recent high school graduates, the focus group participants talked mostly about ways to improve their readiness for college, and this discussion was often related to their chances of college completion. And although many were confident that they would earn a degree in the future, what they knew and didnt know about receiving a post-secondary credential is not likely to be much different from the knowledge level of older adults without a degree. Young peoples concerns should not be seen as any sort of failure on the part of the education system, but rather as areas where some young adults like them those who either did not go directly to college or did not complete a degree could use more assistance and reassurance. Since the goal of this endeavor is to expand college attainment, we need to think of ways to communicate about existing, effective programs currently in place, as well as consider new initiatives that will attract more adults to higher education. As part of the research, we identified interventions that are being successfully implemented in Northeast Ohio and throughout the country and asked the focus group participants if these would address some of their concerns. The interventions we discussed are certainly not the only ways to support students in their pursuit of postsecondary credentials, but the extent to which these strategies resonated with these young people can be used as a guide for leaders as they decide which strategies to pursue in the region. And while many institutions might decide to focus on optimizing or scaling up existing programs, a significant issue remains: What is the best way to communicate to young adults still without a degree that these interventions exist that they are not alone in their journey toward degree attainment? The interventions we tested that received the greatest support were those that promised to: Increase college readiness. Tested interventions include: Dual enrollment and/or early college high schools, online grade monitoring, improving high school counseling and providing guidance on early college savings plans. Increase college degree completion. Tested interventions include: Summer bridge and/or freshman year experience programs, improved student support services and counseling and peer mentoring and/or learning communities. Increase degree attainment among adults with some college but dont have a degree. Tested interventions include: Flexible college schedules and better technical/vocational programs. In this report you will hear young adults express the concerns outlined above in their own words and discuss why they think some interventions would be most helpful. You will also find reference to additional research that has shown independently that these interventions have indeed shown promise or success. And whether or not you choose to adopt a particular intervention or if some of them are already in place we hope this report brings to light the concerns that these young people have and begins a discussion about strategies to communicate that they will not be alone in their college pursuits. Page 3 4. Note that these interventions could be initiated by a variety of actors in the Northeast Ohio community. For instance, parents can communicate the importance of postsecondary education and guide students to make educational choices that will help them succeed. Concerned citizens can offer advice and support, working directly with high schoolers and young adults to help them understand what steps they need to take in order to earn a college degree. Business leaders can offer funding and technical support for infrastructure changes that would support these interventions. And those in education at both the secondary and higher education level can share how best to implement interventions such as these at various points in a persons life. Methodology Focus groups were conducted in three locations in the Northeast Ohio region in Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown with young adults from the metropolitan area and their surrounding communities. Although this qualitative research cannot be generalized to young people overall in Northeast Ohio, consistent themes emerged from the three focus groups, both in general and in response to the interventions. Focus Group Participants (30 young adults in total) Gender # participants Race # participants Man 20 White or Caucasian 15 Woman 10 Black or African American 13 Age Other 2 18-20 8 Currently employed 21-24 22 Yes 12 Some College Experience No 18 Yes 19 No 11 Page 4 5. Concern #1: For many young adults, balancing the financial and time demands of college with work were seen as the greatest barriers to enrollment. What young adults in Northeast Ohio said The difficulty of managing college classes and a job whether part-time or full-time was a theme in every focus group. The participants also saw finances as a major barrier to completing college. Well, the fact of the matter is, when youre in school, youre paying money. When youre not in school, youre making money. At a time like this, making money is what you have to do, so a lot of people just say, Well, Ill just advance within the company, and it just gets to be too late. Its like a catch-22 . You cant overstretch yourself. [But] you cant under-educate yourself. Man from Akron, employed with some college experience People are so keen on applying for loans. Great, youve got a $20,000 loan. Its going to be $30,000 by the time you pay it back. Its not the fact that you can get the loans. Its the fact that you need the financial support. Man from Akron, unemployed with some college experience I think that there need to be more grants, as opposed to loans, because we cant afford to pay them back. Youre not going to find a job right out of school, and then the interest starts collecting. You graduate college, and youre already in debt, and then youre trying to buy a house. Youre trying to start a family, and youre already in debt. You cant get yourself out of the hole because youre trying to better your life, but youve started in the hole. Were burying ourselves before we ever even get started. Man from Akron, unemployed with some college experience Similarly, in Public Agendas national survey of young adults with some postsecondary experience, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, we learned that most postsecondary students struggled with balancing work, money worries, family responsibilities and school, and so they overwhelmingly favored programs that made school more affordable and convenient. These concerns also were a recurring theme among focus group participants from Northeast Ohio. Percent who say the following is a major reason why they did not complete their program: I needed to go to work and make money 54% I just couldnt afford the tuition and fees 31% I needed a break from school 21% Page 5 6. Interventions that could help address this Do you need to go to college to be successful? concern Some, but not all, young adults think so: 1. Initiatives that allow for flexibility in When you want to go get that job and theres one enrollment such as weekend, evening and person that has that college degree over you online classes flexible work schedules and theyre going to look at me and [say] Okay, what childcare. do you know compared to this guy? His is on paper. He has four years saying that, Yeah, I know this Enrolling in college involves a substantial stuff. My word doesnt have anything over his. number of opportunity costs when students Man from Youngstown, unemployed, high school are going to class or studying they forgo the graduate with no college experience wages they could have earned or the time they could have spent on family obligations. I think college is necessary because its okay to go out and find a job like something at Wal-mart WHAT YOUNG ADULTS IN NORTHEAST OHIO SAY that will pay okay but you want to love what youre doing. You want to go to work and enjoy When I first tried to do college, tried to take what you do. You will have to get a career, and 12 credits and go to school, and of course, have to go to school to get a degree [for a career]. go to work, and there was no way. Now Woman from Cleveland, unemployed, high school that Im working the last thing I do after I graduate with no college experience work eight or nine hours a day, is to go and sit [in class] for two more hours and then not Im already working if I would have went to school get home [until] 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Then and finished out, Id still be in the same place I am right now, making the same amount of money I wake up, and do it all over again. I know I Man from Youngstown, employed with some have to go to college. I know. I know, but I college experience didnt have the drive. Woman from Cleveland, employed with some college I need definitely some college background in order experience to excel [in] these positions that arent available to me, but would be if I had a degree. Man from I never thought that I was going to stop Youngstown, employed with some college going to school. Me and my fianc, we experience bought a house, and then I was going to I asked a lot of my teachers when I was both in high school 8:00 to 3:00 every day, and then school and college whether or not to get my working 4:00 to close every night, and I was bachelors, get a job, and then get my masters, or getting burnt out. My grades were slipping get my bachelors and then go straight through and because I had to work. I figured well, I get my masters. The thing that Ive been told the need to work, so I just worked more. I most is, Dont learn your way out of a job. You make decent money at McDonalds, but I would think, Oh, wow, hes got a masters, [and] dont want to stay there [and] every time I this guy only has a bachelors. Lets take this guy. look for jobs, its always, minimum Hes clearly got more experience. The problem is theyre going to have to pay me more because of requirement of such a degree, so thats why my degree, whereas they can pay Joe Schmo with I say Id really like to go back. Woman his bachelors and gradually get his masters and from Akron, employed with some college gradually increase his pay. Then Im the one that is experience going to end up losing out because I gave myself more of that education. Man from Akron, WHAT THEY ARE unemployed with some college experience Helping students balance their work and family commitments could take a variety of forms. In our survey of young adults with some college Page 6 7. experience, a large majority of those who didnt complete school said that making college more convenient for them by offering more courses in the evenings or weekends would help people them like them a lot in completing college (74 percent). Providing daycare also received strong support (66 percent) in the survey. There are a number of other options that could also make college more convenient for students. Some suggestio...</p>