Innovation in the college readiness space...
I'm trying a new format today, and if you like it then I'll do more of these.
The basic idea is this:
Outline a current problem, opportunity, and trend in education. Share some of the research, data, or events that reveal this new thing, and then discuss some of the companies/organizations working in the space.
Today, to begin: College.
All hyperbole aside, it is clear that something is going on when it comes to college in the United States. Like many cultural shifts, this will be good for some people, troublesome for others, and will barely affect a large swath.
In the middle of last year, Inside Higher Ed reported this about the number of people enrolling in college:
College enrollment in the U.S. has decreased for the eighth consecutive year, according to new data released Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The report covers 97 percent of enrollments at degree-granting postsecondary institutions that are eligible to receive federal financial aid.
It's interesting that this would just about correlate with the kids who entered high school as the 2008 Great Recession was happening (08, 09). So, this shows that for reason X, fewer kids are going to college.
This by itself may not be much of a "problem." You could actually argue that it's more of a correction because high schools have been almost blindly pushing kids into going to college, regardless of their plans for the future or their educational attainment.
So, if the kids who are best served by going to college still go, and those that are better served by other paths start taking those other paths, then that seems like a net positive for everyone.
Another key factor, of course, is cost.
Here's some 2019-2020 research from the College Board about trends in the cost of college:
From 2018-19 to 2019-20, tuition and fees increased less than 4% across all sectors before adjusting for inflation.
From 1989-90 to 2019-20, average tuition and fees tripled at public four-year and more than doubled at public two-year and private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation.
So, there was obviously a massive uptick in the cost of college from the time the generation before me went to college (I'm 32) up until now when the Gen Z'ers are going to college.
But going to college is just the first step. Graduating and using the degree is what's actually important.
Here's a quote from a recent NPR article, reporting on a study about the rates at which students are finishing college:
On average, just 58 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
And it actually gets worse if you look at the situation in schools that likely have a larger population of economically disadvantaged students:
On average, four-year private schools graduate more students than their public counterparts. Two-year community colleges and for-profit four-year schools have average completion rates below 40 percent.
So one story line within that data looks like this: a kid struggles in high school, goes to college as the default because what else am I going to do?, then hangs around community college for a while, doesn't access the resources or guidance necessary to make progress, and eventually leaves with little to nothing to show for it.
If you put this all together, I see that the problem is not college, and it may not even be about the cost of college, or the ROI. I think those are all actually distractions from the problem that many more individuals actually have control over:
Getting informed and taking action on the best post-graduation
plan for each individual.
If the education system and families can get that right (with the help of innovative tools, resources, and services), then consider where we can create some friction:
- Fewer kids going to college without a plan or timeline for their next 4-6-8 years
- Fewer kids signing up for huge loans with no plans of how they'll pay it off
- More kids heading towards a training or certification program that will get them a job or put them on track for a focused education
- More kids making financial plans for college that actually make sense
Here is where it's interesting to look at the kinds of companies that exist in the space, and how they might be helping to address this problem. Some examples:
CR Score - this is a "college counselor in your pocket" app that helps provide kids with guidance on the colleges they are best suited to attend
Find Your Grind - this is a platform that seeks to help young people discover their interests and passions in life, select lifestyles and career paths related to those interests, and figure out the plan to get there. Very Millenial/Gen Z, but also an interesting concept
Princeton College Consulting - this company helps provide guidance to families on how to get admitted into top institutions
ScholarMe - this company is helping people maximize all the ways they can pay for education without taking on tons of debt. According to their website, ScholarMe helps you "apply for scholarships, FAFSA®, student loans, income share agreements (ISAs) and every other source of college funding with a single set of questions."
Career Karma - heading into the area of potential alternatives to college, Career Karma, helps people figure out the best coding bootcamp or career training program for them
Do you like this kind of breakdown email? What other subjects do you want to read about?
Who else is doing something interesting in the area of college readiness, college admissions, college funding, etc? Reply and let me know what's on your mind.
Thanks for reading,
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