/Many students struggle to navigate college admissions and lack of transparency around financial aid

Many students struggle to navigate college admissions and lack of transparency around financial aid

Mississippi News Katia Stutton, a non-profit Mississippi News Katia returns to school every day only to continue working. After spending three hours practicing ACT problems, she then spends a few hours researching grants and scholarships that could help her go to college. Sutton is an elective ACT prep student in high school. However, she has to face the fact that not all Mississippi schools are equipped to maximize students’ scores on the high stakes exam. Higher scores can open doors to scholarships and colleges. Sutton stated that high school is a place where you can go to classes and graduate if you show up. Sutton stated that in his junior and senior seminars, he taught us things like “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t do drugs.” “That doesn’t prepare you for college,” Sutton, 16, said. She has enough credits to graduate from Terry High School a year earlier than her peers. Sutton takes free ACT preparation classes offered by Get2College when she can. Anne Hendrick (director of Get2College) said that the program provides assistance to students in navigating college admissions. Hendrick claims that 80 percent of students who take part in the programs meet this criteria. Many students who come through their doors are unaware of the financial aid options available. They may be eligible to receive the Pell Grant which can give them up to $6195 per year. Pell-eligible students who score a 20 on ACT and have a 2.5 GPA can also be eligible for the state’s Help Grant. However, many students are unaware of this grant. Assistant Director of Get2College, Daniela Griffin, head of Camp College program said that it’s the simple things that make sense to them. It’s almost like you can go to school free of charge, but if you didn’t know about the opportunity, you wouldn’t. A college education is often the best way to secure stable employment. According to a Georgetown 2016 study, more than 95 percent of the jobs created in the United States since 2008 have been to those who have at least some college education. According to the 2017 census, only 21 percent of Mississippians hold a college degree. Hendrick explains that some of the problems surrounding college preparation are due to high school counselors focusing more on helping students graduate than preparing them for a successful future. Hendrick stated that schools will not be held responsible for how many students go to college unless they are held accountable. Higher accountability standards may not be beneficial for students like Sutton. Teachers say that schools with lower scores are often used to penalize schools financially. This does not address the many community problems that contribute to the poor academic environment. James Thomas, a University of Mississippi sociology professor, said that if we start to measure which high schools have the highest number of college enrollments and which school districts have them, then we are placing all of the responsibility on schools and not on the communities that created these problems. According to a Harvard University study, 38 colleges in America have more students coming from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent. This is not true for Mississippi colleges or universities. Mississippi State University’s student population is made up of 2.1 percent of those from the top 1 per cent of families. However, 35.9 percent of its students are from the bottom 60% and 5.7 percent of University of Mississippi’s student body are from the top 1%. In other words, 2.1 percent of Mississippi State University’s student population are from families that are in the top 1%. While 27.8 percent are from the bottom 60% percent. Sutton’s school, which is consistently low-rated by the state, and other schools with higher scores can often be attributed to a combination of sociologists Thomas’s cultural and social capital. Thomas stated that it’s not only that the higher-ranked schools have more economic capital. They also have knowledge about the institutions they are trying to get into and how to get up to the top of those institutions. “Less resourced communities aren’t as likely to have that kind of knowledge or information,” Thomas said. This is partly what has led to a lower socioeconomic background among college students than the general population. One example of efforts to address college prep is the Woodward Hines Education Foundation’s Get2College Program. It hosted Camp College in three locations throughout the state, helping rising seniors such as Sutton prepare for college application season. 35 high school students participated in mock college admissions exercises at CampCollege Jackson. They were asked if a student with low GPAs and test scores but who had the last name of “Trump” and whose family had made a significant donation to the school would be admitted at a prestigious college. Program volunteers quickly disagreed with students who chanted “no!” The recent college admissions scandal led to this exercise being added to the program. It revealed to many how wealthy families can get low-scoring students into elite colleges. Hendrick stated that this is the harsh reality of the situation. They need to know.” Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Katia Sutton attended F-rated schools. Sutton is currently a student at Terry High School. However, the school is rated a B-rated school. We are sorry for this error. Terry High School is located in the Hinds County Schools District. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Hinds County School District today.