I did something new this week. Usually I speak to college faculty, administrators, researchers, or policy wonks about my research. But having, once again, come out of the college admissions process alive and witnessing another excellent choice by one of my children, I had an idea to do something new. Talk to parents of high-school students.
Choosing to go to college isn't easy. There are a lot of choices and it is a big financial commitment. There are also a lot of misperceptions out there. I saw that in visiting colleges with my children and in talking with parents of their friends. I've been in higher education for over 25 years and there were still things I didn't know. So I decided to try and help, and spent about three months (off and on) putting together a talk that tries to convey some helpful information in what can be a time of great stress. I want to reduce that stress for parents and students.
I approached Notre Dame High School's Counseling Department (both my son and daughter graduated from there and had excellent college counseling ) with the idea: would this be of interest? Turns out it was, and on Tuesday night I spoke in front of a standing-room only crowd.
I was interested in how well I predicted what would be interesting to parents. Sure enough, the whole idea of tuition discounting was the one that shook the room. I used the Department of Education's College Scorecard to demonstrate this. Only a handful of parents knew of this resource. One of the parents that came up to me after the talk told me he immediately got on his phone and looked up all the schools his child was interested in.
Here are the main categories I discussed:
Why go to college?
Does it matter where you go?
What does college really cost?
Will my child have crippling debt?
How do you do college right?
My goal with this is to make the process less stressful for parents, and then hopefully also less stressful for their children. From what I heard Tuesday night, it might have worked.