Moving the needle – From college enrollment to degree completion and employment

Better strategies and services are needed to help young adults decide where to go to school and what to study so they can move from college enrollment to degree completion and employment.

The need to increase the number of young people enrolling in post-secondary education has received a great deal of attention in the past decade. College enrollment, however, is only one stage in the steps toward degree or credential completion and work force employment.

Many students drop out of school because they enter college without the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed, they are unsure what career path to pursue, or they can’t afford to continue. The numbers are staggering. Census data shows that there are now more college dropouts than high school ones. And, record numbers of young adults now shoulder huge amounts of college debt – many without a degree to show for it. Recent data show that 63 percent of college debtors never finished their degree. Many college drop outs are unlikely to ever re-enroll due to fear of assuming even more debt and having to re-take courses completed earlier because too much time has passed or the credits can’t be transferred elsewhere. These stark realities serve as a wake up call for the need to help students better assess where to go to school, what to study, and how to pay for it. More attention must be placed on enrolling wisely; students must choose postsecondary institutions that are a good match for their aspirations, academic aptitude, career ambitions and budgets.

Society thrives when students succeed. We must ensure students have the financial knowledge, literacy and readiness to understand the costs and benefits of postsecondary education and that they have the means available to enroll and complete their degree or credential. The Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development program and the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) are two organizations working to help students make wise post-secondary education choices. Through 4-H, youth have access to a multitude of career preparation resources including Build Your Future: Choices…Connections…Careers curriculum. KnowHow2GOMichigan.org by the Michigan College Access Network provides advice on every aspect of college and career planning including college searches and paying for college. MCAN also serves as the primary support organization to Local College Access Neworks (LCANs) that provide programs, services and resources for pursuing postsecondary educational opportunities to students in their communities. Another resource to consider when determining what field of study to pursue, is the Bureau of Labor StatisticsOccupational Outlook Handbook that includes the latest statistics on employment, prices and wages.

In addition to post-secondary education planning resources, 4-H provides youth with a multitude of programs that expand horizons, allow personal growth and develop vital life skills such as time management and critical thinking – also important skills that help students make wise choices and then stay on track.

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