As many as 20 percent of high school graduates give up their college plans in the months after graduation, according to an upcoming book, Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College.
It’s even worse for low-income, first-generation students, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington Post. As many as 40 percent “melt” away over the summer, write researchers Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page.
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, a network of small high schools in Providence, R.I., “had a splendid record for getting struggling students ready for college through a series of internships that promoted academic, social and emotional development,” writes Mathews. “Its graduation rate was consistently more than 95 percent. Nearly every graduate was accepted to college and 75 percent of them reported that they had enrolled.”
But a third of the alleged new college students hadn’t enrolled, Boston College Professor Karen Arnold discovered.
She learned that the summer months before college had been too much for them. They didn’t understand the enrollment paperwork. Money problems emerged. Their parents and friends opposed their plans. They couldn’t bear to tell the Met counselors who checked up on them that they had not followed through.
In Washington, D.C., 75 percent of collegebound high school graduates send in college deposits, but only 62 percent enroll in the fall, says Argelia Rodriguez, head of the nonprofit District of Columbia College Access Program (DC-CAP).
One problem, Castleman and Page said, is the paperwork flooding the homes of disadvantaged students in the summer when they lack easy access to the teachers and counselors who helped them prepare their applications. Many of them “had yet to fully internalize the dream of going to college,” the authors said. “They were torn between the desire to further their education and the lures of home, staying with a girlfriend or boyfriend, receiving a steady paycheck, and continuing to contribute financially and otherwise to their family.”
About half the derailed students face financial aid problems, says Castleman. But there are other barriers. “Students encounter a pretty complicated array of financial and procedural tasks to complete over the summer.”
A number of college-prep charter schools now work with their low-income graduates to help them make the transition to college.