August 9th, 2010

By 2018, nearly two-thirds of available jobs will require some form of higher education. But Alabama lags behind the nation in getting our young people to college.

Alabama’s median household income is $9,443 less than the national average. According to the Southern Education Foundation, 60 percent of that gap is due to Alabamians’ low educational attainment. For every dollar earned by individuals with a bachelor’s degree, high school dropouts only earn 32 cents and high school graduates only earn 51 cents. College graduates elevate their personal earning capacity and bring nearly $1 million in spending power back to their local communities. (The Big Payoff, US Census Bureau – PDF)

A college-going culture includes the environment, attitudes, and practices in schools and communities that encourage students and their families to obtain the information, tools, and perspective to enhance access to and success in post-secondary education.

How can you create a college-going culture in your community?

1. Have high expectations. Young people will follow your lead and work to meet your expectations.
2. Share your passion/vocation. Teens are often conflicted about the career path they wish to pursue. Share your story about why you picked the career you did, how you got there, and what you hope to see in the future. This simple act can serve as an invaluable resource to a teenager struggling to choose a career path.
3. Utilize your business or occupation. Invite local teens to shadow you or your colleagues for a day. Giving young people the opportunity to experience a career they may have not have ever considered could be one of the biggest gifts you can give.
4. Mentor a young person. Children that come from homes without a college-educated parent often do not see the value of a college education. By sharing your educational experience and encouraging a young person to pursue post-secondary education, you will dramatically increase her chances of being exposed to new opportunities.
5. Answer questions. Young people can be timid and may not always ask the questions they need to. Answering what seems like simple questions may turn into a larger conversation and guide young people to a more successful future.
6. Participate in or produce a college or career fair. Hosting a fair could be one of the most beneficial activities that you can provide for your community.
7. Contribute to initiatives already underway. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, and by financially supporting organizations already undertaking initiatives, you allow them to increase their impact.

Check out our page on the Blueprints college access initiative for more information on why increasing college access for all Alabama students matters.

Posted by Kristina Scott