Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Access to Higher Education among High School Students: Challenges and Solutions

Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Access to Higher Education among High School Students: Challenges and Solutions

Article excerpt

Abstract: Problem statement: Although there have been increases in student enrollment in tertiary (university) educational settings in many countries, there continues to be students who experience challenges bridging secondary (high school) and university education. Approach: This study includes a description of strategies used in a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program (GEAR UP) that assisted students whose parents did not continue education beyond high school to pursue a college or university education. Results: The relationship between both student academic support and parent support of students attending college and students' participation in the college preparation activities (termed university preparedness) in 10 and 11th grades were examined. Conclusion: The analyses showed that higher levels of both types of supports are associating with higher student university preparedness scores and that parent-related supports proved especially important as a determinant of pursuing a tertiary degree.

Key words: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Program (GEAR UP), Appalachian State University (ASU), tertiary degree, experience challenges


Creating and expanding educational opportunities for children throughout the world has been a focus of international interest for years. According to the United Nations, the number of children completing primary school in nearly all countries worldwide has continued to increase for nearly two decades (ISMUN, 1964). Secondary school enrollment across the globe increased from 56-78% in the last decade (Luisoni et al., 2005) and the number of students entering tertiary (university) educational institutions after completing a secondary education rose by 20 million people between 1990 and 1997 (UNESCO, 2003).

There are, however, still many challenges in creating educational opportunities for all students. For example, although the enrollment rate at tertiary schools is about 45% in most developed countries, the enrollment rate in developing countries is only 30% (UNESCO, 2003). There also continues to be disparities in enrollment rates at the tertiary level based on gender (UNESCO, 2003) and socio-economic factors (Luisoni et al., 2005) which, among other factors, serve as deterrents to pursuing a university education (Cabrera and Nasa, 2001; Phinney et al., 2006; Walpole, 2003).

Early awareness and readiness for postsecondary education: In the United States, youth from families whose parents have not pursued formal education beyond high school and who at the same time are economically disadvantaged, face many barriers and challenges to pursuing a tertiary (university) education (Choy, 2001; Deil-Amen et al., 2005; Tym et al., 2004). In response to these barriers and challenges, the United States federal government authorized funding for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduates Programs (GEAR UP) to provide students, teachers and schools the resources to encourage college or university enrollment among all students (AISD, 2007; Muraskin, 2003; Standing et al., 2008). The primary goal of GEAR UP is to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enroll and succeed in their postsecondary education (Deil-Amen et al., 2005).

This study includes findings from data collected in one school district in western North Carolina in the USA that is currently participating in the Appalachian State University (ASU) GEAR UP project (Wilson-Kearse, 2010). ASU GEAR UP works with middle schools and high schools in four school districts located in high poverty areas where more than 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches (a proxy measure for low socio-economic status). Data collected in the 10th grade in this school district showed that 60% of the students and 66% of their parents indicated that the youth would attend and receive a four year college degree after graduation from high school (ERIC, 2007; Trivette, 2010). …

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