The program offered by Undergraduate Admissions and the Texas Tech Alumni Association puts Texas Tech not only on the map, but front of mind.
High school counselors and community college advisers from around the country came to Texas Tech University in June to see what being a Red Raider is all about.
Roughly 60 counselors and advisers were accepted to the Summer Showcase, which gets hundreds of applicants every year. The program allows them to take a closer look at everything Texas Tech has to offer first-hand. From academic sessions and campus tours, to visiting West Texas staples like Cagle Steaks and Llano Estacado Winery, the group stays busy for the three days they're here.
For more than 20 years Summer Showcase has given counselors and advisers an opportunity to better serve their students back home. The three days in Lubbock empower them to go back to their schools and advise on Texas Tech programs accurately and enthusiastically.
Jana Morse was a counselor who made the trip to Lubbock this year. She is in her fifth year with the Clear Creek Independent School District in Houston.
I caught up with Morse during her time on campus and asked some questions about college enrollment trends and what she sees working with high school students daily.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has trended steadily downward in the past decade. Why do you think that is?
It's surprising to hear you say that. I would not have guessed enrollment was going down; that is not something I have seen in our district. However, when thinking on a national level, it makes sense. College costs keep going up and that is the biggest obstacle my students face.
Now, there are tons of ways for kids to go to college. If you come from a low-income family and you are a high performer, you are going to find endless scholarship opportunities. Lots of premium colleges will pick up the tab for you. Then you've got your superstars, the students who can get scholarships in athletics.
But then you have the rest of the students – the majority who are solid academically and from middle-class families. They are hardworking but they are not going to get the financial support other students do.
Another variable to consider as to why prices are going up and enrollment is going down, is dual credit opportunities. Some high schools are early college and career school, so your ideal candidate gets an associate degree or an industry certification by the time they graduate. They have a leg up because they have this industry certification that allows them real-world experience.
I think because you're seeing more dual credit like this, it could be driving university prices up, because they are losing money on credits students do not need upon arriving.
With all the global changes we are seeing and the economy struggling, why is a bachelor's degree still relevant?
A college degree teaches you how to think. The college experience teaches you how to collaborate and it teaches you professionalism. It will always be relevant.
However, for some, it might not be as relevant; and that's OK. If you want to work in a trade or work with your hands, a junior college or trade school could be a better fit.
But for those wanting to work in other industries, a four-year education is essential. As part of our tour this week, we got to see the College of Media & Communication (CoMC). Personally, I worry about students pursuing creative or communications-based degrees. Sometimes I wonder if they will find jobs. But the CoMC faculty shared what their students go on to do, and I was amazed! Their alumni have gone on to be communication leaders for the NFL, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Southwest Airlines and the U.S. Olympic Committee. It was clear those opportunities opened up for them because of their experience at Texas Tech. I do not think they would be doing what they are doing without that degree. So yes, for most people, a college degree is as relevant as ever.
What are the biggest obstacles your students face when preparing for college?
Well, I already mentioned cost. But another thing I see students struggle with is the process of applying. While Texas Tech has begun to accept other metrics, many universities still require the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) and this is an obstacle for strong students who are not good test takers.
I'll give you an example. My brother-in-law has his doctorate and works at NASA. He is literally a rocket scientist. He ran the failure analysis after the Columbia exploded, made the final cut for the astronaut program and is incredibly intelligent.
He and I got the same score on the SAT.
While I get that we have to measure aptitude in some way, I believe that if everyone had unlimited time to do these test problems, everyone would do well. But in these short timeframes, you are not measured for what you know; you are measured for how fast you can go. It is a drill-and-kill situation. Students with dyslexia or processing issues are going to struggle with standardized testing, but they are often some of the brightest minds.
So, I am glad colleges are moving away from only looking at test scores, but there is still a long way to go. And that is a real obstacle for a lot of students. One other thing I would mention is the applications themselves. I have seen some universities with applications that are easy to fill out and some that are a nightmare. Then, if you have a first-generation college student navigating the application, that can be daunting. So continuing to work on intuitive application processes is important to these students.
A lot of students want to go to college but are unsure of what to study. Would you advise that they still go, or wait and figure it out first?
Just start. Go to college and start taking classes. In most cases, you will have basics you need to knock out anyway. So, while taking those classes, check out your options. Also, talk to people. You will be living with people you have never met before. You might meet someone who is studying something you never knew existed!
I would also advise students to get involved in organizations that align with their interests and passions. You will meet like-minded people and that could be a fantastic way to discover a degree plan you'll like. The more people you meet, the more you learn.
One thing that stood out to me during our tour was the career exploration services offered at the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business. The woman who directs it showed us all these different assessments they offer to help students find their strengths. These kinds of resources are not as easily available outside of college, so getting onto campus and utilizing these free resources is a great first step.
If inspiration has not struck where you are, it likely won't. Students do not usually have lightbulb moments by repeating the same things they have always done. So, my advice is just start college. You'll be in an inspiring atmosphere and have access to try new things.