SESP Hosts Education Writers' Seminar on College Pathways

SESP Hosts Education Writers' Seminar on College Pathways

James RosenbaumEducation sociologist James Rosenbaum (middle) discusses his work on education pathways.   Almost all high school graduates now attend college, but that doesn’t mean they’re receiving a degree, Northwestern University’s James Rosenbaum told journalists during a two-day Education Writers Association seminar in Chicago that explored gaps between high school and post-secondary education.

“Dropping out with only some college means no payoff,” said Rosenbaum, an award-winning education sociologist and co-author of Bridging the Gaps: College Pathways to Career Success. “Educators and counselors need to understand the wide variety of new programs and degrees, so they can help students make choices that fit their interests and abilities.”

The conference Education and the American Dream: Pathways from High School to College was held in a fitting venue: Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools, a college-prep program that helps talented, largely low-income students prepare for competitive colleges and universities.

Throughout the two-day event,  journalists heard from students, educators, researchers, filmmakers, and EWA members on what is – and isn’t --  being done locally and around the country “to make schools and colleges more reliable engines of economic opportunity and upward mobility,” said Caroline Hendrie, executive director of EWA.

Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools Director Cassandra Geiger welcomed reporters and explained the unique aspects of Northwestern’s free, multi-year college access and enrichment program, including college campus visits across the country, college advising, and a comprehensive three-year improvisation training program.

In a separate student-focused panel, SESP’s Danny Rodriguez, a Northwestern Academy alumnus, spoke aboutDaniel ROdriguez his path to Northwestern and touched on his experience as a member of a non-dominant group.

“I’ve learned I have to be willing to put in the effort to be heard,” he said. “You have to make sure the people who are the decision-makers are considering everyone in the room.” 

A Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

Rosenbaum, professor of human development and social policy and a fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research, discussed the obstacles to effective high school counseling with several other participants, including education consultant Joyce Brown, and Lina Fritz, managing director of program innovation at OneGoal, which works for equitable access to post-secondary education.

High school students in low-income communities aren’t receiving the advice and support they need to successfully transition from high school to college in part because high school counselors lack the specific training and support they need to be effective, Rosenbaum said.

College advisors who work in high schools, for example, often know very little about occupational programs and sub-baccalaureate degrees offered at community colleges.

Rosenbaum suggested several systematic approaches based on his research to help with the transition from high school to college:

  • Give high school students the college placement exam in 11th grade to help them understand what they need to learn their senior year.
  • Align student interests and community college program so students have a better idea of what they are choosing.
  • Create a high school course to educate students about various college programs that lead to specific careers. “Reducing the load on counselors gives students much better access to the college word in preparation for making choices,” he said.

Education and the American Dream was the first of two Education Writers Association events focusing on the theme of education pathways and hosted by Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. The School also will host a seminar in the fall of 2020 that explores the transition between college and the workforce.

To learn more, read “Going all-in on college counseling: success and trade-offs” by Rosenbaum and Gorana Ilic of Northwester’s Institute for Policy Research.  



By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 11/22/19