Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Aspirations, Achievement, and School Counselors' Impact on the College Transition

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Aspirations, Achievement, and School Counselors' Impact on the College Transition

Article excerpt

The Reach Higher initiative (https://www.whitehouse.gov/reach-higher) attempts to mobilize widespread, comprehensive, and volunteer efforts across the United States to help all young people gain access to needed postsecondary education and career training. High skill, high wage jobs require significant training beyond high school. Long gone are the days when high school diplomas opened doors leading to the kinds of employment possibilities that allowed workers to share in the economic benefits of America's pluralistic democracy (e.g., being able to buy a home). However, although far too many students still do not graduate from high school, the number of young people failing to successfully achieve their postsecondary educational aspirations may be more than double the current national high school dropout rate. For example, in Massachusetts's high school cohort class of 2012, approximately 13% of all high school students failed to graduate from high school within 5 years (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.-b). Of those who earned a high school diploma, 81 % planned to attend a 2- or 4-year college in the upcoming fall semester (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.-a). Unfortunately, 15% of these graduating 12th graders did not actually enroll for the fall semester, and an additional 13% started in the fall semester but failed to persist into their 2nd year (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, n.d.-b).

The situation is very similar across the United States. The term summer melt has been constructed to draw attention to the large group of graduating 12th graders who plan to immediately attend postsecondary education in the upcoming fall semester but do not actually enroll (Castleman & Page, 2014). Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) data set (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.), Castleman and Page (2014) found that summer melt rates were much higher for lower income students (15%) than they were for higher income students (10%) after statistically controlling for academic achievement differences between students. Even so, one out of every 10 higher income students across the United States was a casualty of summer melt. Castleman and Page speculated that the inability to finance their education and the lack of support for managing the logistics of transitioning into college are particularly problematic for first-generation college students, and may explain some of the discrepancies observed in summer melt rates.

Retention and persistence have also become key markers of success in postsecondary education. Retention calls attention to whether or not students who enter a postsecondary educational institution return to that same college for their 2nd year. Persistence highlights those students who might not return to the same institution for a 2nd year but enroll in another postsecondary educational setting. Poor rates of retention and persistence to graduation have been estimated to cost each college on average $10 million annually--or nearly $14.5 billion collectively (Raisman, 2013), and this does not consider the costs to students and families themselves. Across 2,143 two- and 4-year colleges, 68% of students enrolled in Fall 2013 returned in Fall 2014, and at these same institutions, 45.3% of students persisted to graduation within 3 years for an associate's degree or 5 years for a bachelor's degree (ACT, 2015). In other words, approximately one out of every four students across the United States who enroll in a 2- or 4-year college do not return to that college for the 2nd year, and less than half persist to graduation.

High school students who achieve academically and use a range of noncognitive skills, such as goal setting, social involvement, and time management, are more likely to earn higher grade point averages in their 1st year of postsecondary education and to return for their 2nd year (Robbins et al. …

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