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How School Administration Can Help Lower Barriers to Higher Education

As an educator, you know the steep cost of earning and paying for a higher education degree. According to Adrian K. Haugabrook, a higher education executive from Southern New Hampshire University, less than 7 percent of the world’s population owns a bachelor’s degree. Let’s explore how school administration can help lower barriers to higher education.

3 Ways to Lower the Barriers to Higher Education

1. Share Your College Experiences and Encourage Your Staff to Do the Same

High school students are usually introduced to attending college starting in their junior year. Some schools start in middle school. Students coming from families where the accepted norm is to end their formal education upon graduating from high school need to be told that a college education is their right just as much as the next kid.

You often hear a person say, “I was the first person in my family to go to college.” This is still going on today. If you have students like this who are tentatively thinking about applying to a college, that means they have no mentors or role models in their families to offer them insights and guidance.

This is where teachers and administrative staff need to step up and share their own stories of attending college. This helps take some of the mystery, confusion and fear out of what awaits them should they decide to work towards a college degree.

What to Share

Of course, share the positive, fun parts of your college experience and the challenges. Give your middle and high school students a balanced picture of college. For instance, tell them that it’s not uncommon for your grades to slip initially when first attending college. It takes time to adjust to college-level courses’ with more demanding academic standards.

For instance, if a student was a straight-A student in high school but started getting Bs their first or second semester of college, this doesn’t mean they can’t cut it. It just means that students are faced with tremendous changes in their lives those first couple of semesters. This is not a reason to give up on earning a degree.

2. Set Up Higher Learning Opportunities in the Community

Many aspiring college students don’t have access to campuses in their communities where they can experience a greater sense of belonging. To gain a better learning environment, students are confronted with re-relocating. Although it can be argued new and valuable experiences await the student that has to go away to college, this does drive up the cost of higher education.

A new approach is to set up college learning facilities in local community centers and churches where the students can receive class instruction, advice, and mentoring from local business owners and community leaders. Also, students can engage in volunteer work in their community that benefits the community and can be used to bolster college applications and resumes.

These learning communities become a valuable part of the overall educational ecosystem. For this approach to work, administrators must embrace the belief that effective learning can take place anywhere - not just on a traditional college campus.

3. Showcase Local, State, and Federal Scholarships

Paying for a college education can be enough to scare many high school students away from higher education. This is especially true if their family doesn’t have the funds to help out or just outright refuses to assist their son or daughter financially.

This is where the administration and teachers really need to step up. Keep your antennae on high alert for those students so you can direct them to sources of information on what scholarships are available to them and how to apply.

Some of these sources include:

  • The financial aid offices of the college or technical school the student is interested in
  • The U.S. Department of Labor scholarship search tool
  • Your state’s grant agency
  • Large businesses often provide scholarships

Final Thoughts

When school administration work to lower the barriers to higher education, their students and community as a whole will improve. Believe in your students and what they can accomplish once they leave your school. With many immigrant and refugee students at our schools, we must help them achieve their higher education goals.

Start by speaking to your junior and senior students, finding out what is stopping them from moving forward with their education, and then find ways to support them.


Written by Ellie Hudovernik
Education World Contributor
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