Troubled by college dropouts, high schools track students beyond graduation

ByAllison Kowalski

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While many high schools focus a lot of energy on getting students into college, admissions is only the first step. And especially when it comes to low-income students and those who are first in their family to attend college, many drop out long before they complete a degree.

Growing concern about this problem is sparking efforts in the K-12 realm to ensure better college success rates for high school graduates.

Take the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). It recently launched a Smart College Choices campaign that helps match local students with colleges that have a strong track record of success with DCPS graduates. In fact, the program is offering a welcome map to such higher education institutions. Only those with high graduation rates for DCPS students are being invited into local high schools to promote their universities.

“Families are hungry for information, students are hungry for information, they all want to succeed,” said Erin Bibo, a senior official at DCPS, during a recent Education Writers Association conference. “Given that access to information makes for better success, they’re very happy to have it.”

The campaign aims to educate students who might not have seen themselves on a pathway to college about their options, said Bibo, the deputy chief of college and career programs for DC’s public high schools. Recently, they added a counselor to every high school who meets with every student and creates a postsecondary plan, whether or not that involves college, so students remain aware of the next steps they have to take.

“It is very easy to say ‘oh college is not for everyone’ but at DCPS we believe every student gets to make that choice for themselves,” she said.