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Workforce division focuses on high school students

Lane Community College, in Eugene, OR has opened a new Workforce Division. The college hopes to help high school students develop a career path for themselves following graduation. For years, community colleges have relied on high school guidance counselors to direct students to community college classrooms. This approach may have worked in the past, especially for students who had no other plans.

With Generation Z, this approach won’t work. A growing number of high school students don’t see college attendance as a viable (or necessary) route to economic independence. Getting in front of high school students (perhaps as early as 10th grade) to get them thinking about their plans following graduation is critical.

When surveyed, about two-thirds of Generation Z members say they intend to be self-employed at some time in their lives. That opens up a big opportunity for business classes and degrees, which this generation will need if they intend to work for themselves.

Shifting the recruiting strategy from reliance on high school guidance counseling to active recruiting and development for prospective incoming students will pay benefits in three different ways. First, students begin thinking about their post-secondary plans sooner. They have time to develop (and alter) academic or initial career plans and options.

Second, community college enrollment becomes something more than a last-resort option for students who don’t have access to education financing from family savings or other means. It gives them an opportunity to think about how they could finance a college education, even with only a couple of years to go.

Third, it allows students who don’t initially enroll in a college program immediately after graduation to view community college enrollment as a future option if their career plans change. (It also introduces a completion path for students who leave high school without a diploma.)

Recruiting high school students has merit

Working more closely with high school students just makes sense, given the declining number of high school students who choose to enroll in post-secondary programs immediately after graduation. Some community college administrators have taken to focusing more on the coming “enrollment cliff” than they do on strategies to recruit students who might not otherwise enroll in college at all.

Gifted administrators play the hands they’re dealt. In this case, if there are fewer overall high school students, then post-secondary administrations need to develop strategies to reach students they had not previously recruited. The “enrollment cliff” will affect selective universities and regional universities far more than community colleges because it will decrease the pool of students who are likely to pursue a post-secondary education. There are still many students who could succeed in college courses who fly below the university radar. Additionally, community colleges still appeal to older, non-traditional students.

If community colleges focused more intently on their recruiting strategies, they might improve their enrollment.

Photo Credit: slgckgc , via Flickr