The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is working fervently to reverse a disturbing trend in our state – and in most states — that the rate of high school graduates who matriculate to higher education is continuing a downward slide. In Indiana, the five-year trend delivered another one-half percentage point drop this year. Included in the work being undertaken are programs to ensure that rising high school seniors navigate the federal and university bureaucracy to obtain at least three “pre-admission” letters before graduation. Anything to reduce barriers might help with the problem.
We know that training is required for higher-paying, higher-demand jobs. We know that Hoosiers who are properly credentialed almost always financially outperform their counterparts who do not achieve the degree. If so, how is it that folks are moving against their own best interest? Countless reasons might be included if we were to list the gap. Increasing costs, feelings of exclusion, lack of K-12 preparedness, or concern about aligning one’s interests with employment all might make the agenda.
But we also know that family support — really, the support of anyone — highly correlates with success in education. Are families failing to encourage kids to learn? Studies indicate that some are. Do we hate our children? Do we hate universities? There may be some of both. First-generation or underrepresented kids might see such change through education that they are fundamentally transformed. Where they live, what they think, how they entertain themselves, and what they eat – all differentiate them from their roots. Is it possible to imagine that a parent who discourages higher education loves her offspring so much that she couldn’t bear the changes it might bring? If we dreamed of lives with children and grandchildren close to us, does encouraging education require us to give up our anticipated future for theirs?