College acceptance is no assurance of enrollment

Lost in the debate over college for all in this country is that large numbers of students who have been accepted at college never actually enroll (“Why so many poor kids who get into college don’t end up enrolling,”, Aug. 3).  Although this so-called “summer melt” affects students from low-income families the most, it also is seen among students from more affluent backgrounds.

One explanation is that high school counselors have not done their job by fully explaining the steps needed once acceptance is offered.  I’m referring now to the various financial forms that have to be completed.  Unless students have parents who can pay the full cost or are sophisticated enough to understand what is entailed when student loans are involved, many students are simply overwhelmed and never show up for enrollment.

There is much truth to that explanation, but I don’t think it is the entire story.  Community colleges provide the kind of guidance such students can turn to.  Moreover, community colleges are a financial bargain, which means that most students don’t have to saddle themselves with onerous debt to earn a degree or certificate.  I don’t understand why students do not take advantage of these services.  They don’t need their parents to guide them when counselors exist for this very purpose.

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2 Replies to “College acceptance is no assurance of enrollment”

  1. Perhaps many students who apply and are accepted at college never intended to go to college (or community college) but rather submitted the applications in order to satisfy their high school administrators/counselors.

    It’s my impression that there is pressure on high school administrators to generate figures showing that a high percentage of the seniors applied for and were accepted at a college. However, there is little/no pressure on high school administrators to generate figures showing how many of the seniors actually enrolled in college.

    If this is true, common sense suggests that high school administrators will encourage/require seniors to submit applications — particularly to colleges/junior colleges that accept virtually all applicants — even when the student’s counselor knows for certain that the student has no intention of going to college.


  2. Labor Lawyer: That’s a very likely explanation. But I wonder if the problem is even more fundamental: the obsession with college for all. Too many students have been led to believe by their counselors and by the media that without a college degree their future is bleak. Yet we know there are well paying jobs for those who have pursued a vocational curriculum followed by an apprenticeship.


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