“The more you learn, the more you earn. It’s an adage that many use to promote education as the catalyst for more earning power over a lifetime. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person with a four-year degree will earn one million dollars more over the course of a lifetime than that of someone with only a high school diploma. With a college education, an individual can expect better working conditions, longer job tenure, more opportunities for training and, ultimately, more promotions as part of a career ladder.
Education is not only the catalyst for more earning power, but it is the undergirding factor for a stable—and happier—life. With education comes a sense of confidence—personal, social, financial, and emotional. That confidence translates into greater autonomy and self-direction and ultimately means that an individual will have more choices about decisions made over a lifetime.
Education is also an equalizer. It can begin to blur the differences between social classes and gender privilege. Those who have grown up in a poor environment will be empowered to work and play on more equal footing with those who have grown up in more advantaged circumstances. This diversity means that people are able to eschew their differences and reach instead for common ground.
I believe that the power of possible is made into reality through education.
But for many young people, the complicated process of applying for college, navigating financial aid and student loans, making choices about what to study, and steering through the various college offices—registrar, advising, finance, work-study, student services, scheduling—and more—can be daunting and overwhelming to even the most ambitious student. This tension between knowing that education is the catalyst for a better life and the tactical, practical realities of applying and getting in—and staying in—college is very real. What will make the difference?
The number one difference for young people who want to go to college is finding support from someone who believes that they can go to college and succeed. When you believe that achieving a dream is possible…when you believe that you have options and choices, when you are inspired by those around you to aim high, dreams become reality. Do you know that when a child has a savings account, even less than $500, she is 3 times more likely to enroll and 4 times more likely to graduate from college? The very act of just having the savings account inspires a young person to believe that college is possible. And then, college is not just possible, but it is a reality.
Here at Fedcap, we looked at this problem of college entrance and thought long and hard about how to introduce a precise intervention that could help young people find their way through the process of college application. We understood that the support needed would have to come from schools, but also, more importantly, it had to be fueled by advocacy at home. But what if college was not part of familiar family vernacular? What if, for example, a child is in foster care, and her parents had never attended college or navigated the system? We developed a program called PrepNow!™ to help parents and foster parents guide their children or the youth in their care through the college application process. And, we developed GetReady!™, a program for young people who are in the process of preparing for adulthood. Both programs offer a roadmap for encouraging and supporting young people who want to go to college along with practical and tactical tools for managing the process.
What other interventions can you think of that might help support a young person plan, prepare, and apply to college? If you attended college, what was the most useful guide that you found along the way? What choices might you have lost had you not attended college? How might your own earning power be different had you not attended college? These questions and their answers are fascinating to me—and as always, I welcome your thoughts.