One of the most important elements of higher education happens—or doesn’t happen—before students ever enter college. That is guidance, or the lack of it. Sometimes guidance is non-existent, as counselors are few and far between at all but the top high schools. Sometimes the counselors who are available provide the wrong kind of advice. Why would anybody in their right mind tell a kid who never cracked a book in high school to take out loans in order to waste his start at adulthood at an academic college which he is likely to drop out of? Yet going to a four-year college is the default advice given to many young people, whether they’re college-ready or not.
A different approach is needed, and some alternative programs are starting up. In one format, counselors from community colleges with expertise in labor markets or technical training rather than psychology (the usual background for guidance counselors) go to local high schools to dispense advice on alternative paths to careers. Once such program is conducted by Central Carolina Community College in Sanford. Harry Painter discusses the world of guidance in the latest Pope Center article.