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Much of the attention in higher education circles focuses on getting more vulnerable students to and through college. We have finally acknowledged that access to and entry into post-high school education not enough; we need to focus on graduation — whether from a certificate program, a community college or a four-year college or university.
We have targeted improving graduation rates as a goal that symbolizes success, enabling some to claim victory when those rates rise. But we are mistaken.
We are claiming success too early. This point — which had been gnawing at some of us for months as we have watched and listened to our current seniors — was brought to the fore in Jeff Hobbs' new book, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. The story of Robert Peace is poignant, examining how a kid from Newark graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biology and ended up murdered in a drug-related crime.
Of course, the individual stories are not identical nor necessarily as tragic. But consider the plight of many first-generation, low-income students who leave their homes and land on college campuses whether elite or not where some excel academically and then graduate.
Normally, we stop the story there and celebrate success. Since graduation rates are so low for vulnerable students, we assume that the awarding of a degree is the crowning achievement. In this book and through our lived experiences, certain questions recur: What more could have been done to save Robert?
Could he have been saved if colleges saw their responsibility as extending beyond the moment a degree is awarded?
Think about how many high schools consider their jobs done when students get accepted to college and complete high school. High schools are cutting short the scope of their work. We think that colleges like the one where we work now have a greater obligation than we realize.
We offer our first-generation students a career-launching liberal arts education but we do not address with enough deliberateness how our students will transition from our institution into employment or graduate school.
Where will they live? Should they return home? How can they navigate their friendships from before and after college?
What about their families back home? Yes, we have career services offices. Yes, we match academic programs with careers. Yes, we have graduate fairs and job fairs. Yes, we do mock interviews. We do GRE prep. But what we are missing is what would have helped Robert Peace: We should know better.
We have experience with our younger veterans now returning stateside. Many of these veterans understandably struggle to navigate effectively from military life to civilian life. Settling into and then succeeding in college are mighty challenges. This reinforces the need to pay attention to our college seniors — preparing them not just for graduation and a career.
Robert Peace was left to figure that pathway out on his own and he failed. Interventions from friends and family did not help.I hold a BA in Business Management and an MSc in Human Resource Management and Employment Relations.
I am currently a full-time researcher with much experience in tutoring and providing guidance to university students in academic writing.
4 SAMPLE GRADUATE SCHOOL ESSAYS #1. "From Working Poor to Elite Scholar" One of the proudest accomplishments of my life was earning my college degree.
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