“Uncovering the Tripwires to Postsecondary Success” includes research and insights from interviews conducted with over 200 Kentucky students, parents, teachers, business leaders, policymakers, politicians, and researchers. The investigation focuses on the theme of inequality in the postsecondary transition process.
“As students on the cusp of postsecondary transitions ourselves, we are especially interested in learning what it takes to move successfully from high school to college,” said Gentry Fitch, a recent West Jessamine High School graduate and chair of the investigative team. “Our goals are to raise the level of informed discussion among students and adults and to make sure that those who make policy around postsecondary transitions are hearing from students about how related policies directly affect us.”
In their report, the students identify the three major categories of obstacles, or “tripwires,” to make the point that students often stumble over them before realizing that they even exist. They characterized these categories as: “The Birthright Lottery,” “Veiled College Costs,” and “College and Career Unreadiness.”
The student investigators say they aim to promote a more honest conversation about postsecondary transitions among their peers and their families. Andrew Brennen, a recent graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington and current undergraduate at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, said that after a year of research, members of the project team are eager to dispel what they call the “meritocracy myth.”
“When it comes to supporting students to make it to and through college, critical resources like college-advising, financial aid, and the availability of programs that help students develop the softer, non-academic skills to succeed are either not adequate or not available to many of the students who need them most.” Brennen said. “While Kentucky does do great things to support some of its students, much more needs to be done to support all of us.”
Members of the Student Voice Team will be traveling the state this summer to promote their work to students and the general public. They are also communicating via social media and are using the hashtag #CollegeTripwires.
The Prichard Committee Student Voice Team was founded in the fall of 2012 to integrate student voice into education policy making. The initiative is an extension of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent citizens’ advocacy group that works to improve Kentucky schools. The Student Voice Team recently gained national attention for its work in the 2015 legislative session when the group attempted to pass a bill to add students to Kentucky’s superintendent screening committees.
The Tripwires report is funded by a grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board.
Correction: Previously the reported stated on page three that Kentucky had the ninth worst graduation rate in the country, which was incorrect. Kentucky has the 13th worst graduation rate amongst the states.