Center for Youth Voice in Practice and Policy @ WKCD

“One thing I always told myself was that I don’t have to be the tail.  I got to be the head. I know that education is power.””

                                                                                                                                                                                                          - Seattle, WA high school junior




Students do not get the college-going help they need from schools until far too late in the game, according to a new report by a research team of 25 diverse high school students from Washington state and Tennessee.

Instead, parents and guardians largely step into the gap, according to their study, Hear Us Out.

Three-quarters of the respondents named their families as the chief source of college motivation and support, even when their parents and guardians had not attended college themselves.

In contrast, almost a third said they had never spoken with a school counselor about college. Although that percentage dropped to 12 percent by twelfth grade, 28 percent of seniors said they had completed their college application mostly on their own.

Student researchers based their findings on surveys of close to 5,000 peers in nine comprehensive high schools, five in Seattle and four in Chattanooga and Hamilton County, Tennessee. Another 225 students participated in video-taped student-led focus groups and individual interviews.

Supported by Lumina Foundation for Education, Hear Us Out was a collaborative effort by What Kids Can Do (WKCD), the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, and the Alliance for Education in Seattle. The Public Science Project at CUNY Graduate Center helped design the survey and train the students. Students carried out their research and analysis in the spring of 2010.

Once you know someone is looking at you, expecting the best of you, that’s when you start working and doing your absolute best. So it really does start with an adult, it starts with a parent, it starts with a teacher, it starts with a mentor, and then you excel off of that. They’re the launching pad, you’re the rocket.
Edward Wood, Senior, Ooltewah High School, Chattanooga, TN

Conversations about setting their sights on college began early for 86 percent of students and came to a peak in sixth through ninth grades. But respondents said they lacked concrete advice from school sources in the critical early high school years.

Encountering a problem moving ahead with college plans, 86 percent of students said they would turn to a parent or guardian, compared to 38 percent who said they would consult a school counselor, and 33 percent a teacher.

The cost of college was the biggest hurdle, according to more than two-thirds of students. Forty percent said they knew little or nothing about financial aid. Of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, only 64 percent expected to attend college directly after high school, compared with 78 percent of higher-income students.

Aware of the constraints caused by overloaded counselors and shrinking school budgets, the student researchers urged community partners to step in with support and coaching for families and youth. They also asked for mentoring from “near peers” — college students from similar backgrounds who could share practical advice about access and success.

“We found no shortage of ambition among these high school students, whatever their family income, race or ethnicity,” the Hear Us Out project team said. “But making college dreams come true for America’s youth is a joint production, requiring all of us.”

Hear Us Out: Students Talk About Going to College     

Executive summaryHear_Us_Out_files/HUO_Combined_Exec_Sum.PDF
Full reportHear_Us_Out_files/HUO_Combined_Report.PDF
Student surveyHear_Us_Out_files/Combined%20HUO%20Survey.pdf

Download or watch:

Focus group videosFocus_Group_Videos.html