Most high school graduates plan to start college in the fall, but 10 to 20 percent “melt” away over the summer. “Summer melt” primarily affects low-income, minority students planning to enroll in community college, writes Alejandra Ceja in the U.S. Education Department’s Homeroom blog. “The lower a student’s income, the more likely they are to experience summer melt because they lack the necessary resources and support.”
Forty percent of would-be community college students give up their plans by fall, Harvard researcher Lindsay Page tells NPR reporter Shankar Vedantam. Low-income and first-generation students may lose heart when they face paperwork and financial aid forms. Some fear leaving friends behind.
Once students graduate, high schools “often don’t see kids as being their responsibility and the colleges don’t see these kids as being their responsibility” yet, says Vedantam.
Now in fairness, both these institutions are trying to bridge the gap, and at Fulton County, Georgia researchers actually ran an experiment one summer. High school counselors typically work, you know, a nine or 10 months schedule. These schools brought the counselors back over the summer to reach out to the students who are heading to college. And what they found was that the kids from low-income families took up his offer in droves and not only that, it drove down the rate of summer melt by 8 percentage points. So instead of a 40 percent summer melt rate, you might be talking about a close to 30 percent summer melt rate, and that’s huge.
It costs a few hundred dollars to “bridge that last mile” between high school and college, Vedantam concludes.
“No excuses” charter schools have learned that low-income graduates need counseling and support to cope with college challenges, writes Robert Pondiscio in Education Next. Without that, graduation rates will be low.