A letter from the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., to the Chicago Tribune's Voice of the People

March 19, 2008
This is in response to "Study: More teens could enter college; But many try vocational, 2-year schools instead; report says city high schools should do more to help them apply" (Metro, March 13).

Your story on the Consortium on Chicago School Research’s recent report, "From High School to the Future: Potholes on the Road to College,” raises important questions. In a society that believes that ability and hard work ought to be rewarded, we find too many of our most able and hardworking students are falling short when it comes to translating their aspirations for a college education into reality.

It is distressing to learn that only about half of Chicago Public Schools seniors who aspire to a college degree took the steps to apply, particularly when so many of them are qualified. At a time when higher education is more important than ever—not just for individual students but for the nation’s future economic competitiveness—we can ill afford to waste this energy and talent.

The report pinpoints a number of areas for school improvement to ensure that students get the support they need in navigating the road to college, including greater emphasis on creating college-focused cultures within high schools, improving college guidance and providing support to navigate the often complex financial aid process.

A recent Brookings Institution report noted that the percentage of Americans with university degrees has been virtually flat for the past two decades.

Given the urgency of this matter, institutions of higher education must do more.

First, colleges need to build relationships with high schools, including those where guidance and other services to support college planning may be weak. Colleges need to conduct early outreach to neighborhood high schools in the city to demonstrate their commitment to higher education opportunity for all and to provide clear pathways to admission. The CPS College Bridge program, which allows dual enrollment at a number of area colleges and universities, provides an excellent vehicle for doing both.

Second, colleges need to ensure that their own processes for applying for aid are as transparent and simple as possible, and that their own aid programs support the objectives of economic and social diversity.​​​