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Making College an Option
Christine Shanaberger speaks with students at Juniata High School.
Christine Shanaberger ’06 smiles widely at a group of Juniata High School students lounging in the school library.
Holding admissions materials, she tells the students that going to college could open a world of opportunities for them.
“In schools where I was expecting to have students bang down my door to get help for college, many times I’m receiving blank, disinterested stares,” Shanaberger said.
“Many students seem to think that they will be able, like their parents, to stay in these small towns and find jobs nearby,” she said. As an adviser with the Keystone College Advising Corps, Shanaberger lets these students know that college may be a better option for the future.
For many high school students living in rural Pennsylvania, college is not something their parents did and, besides, it is just too expensive. KCAC wants to change that perception.
“As the cost of living increases, it will become increasingly difficult to provide for a family on $30,000-a-year incomes,” Shanaberger said.
Franklin & Marshall College has partnered with Dickinson College, Millersville University and Shippensburg University to send college graduates from these schools into rural Pennsylvania high schools with the message that going to college is an option for them.
The program is supported by a $1 million grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to prevent a lack of financial resources from deterring students from reaching academic potential.
KCAC has eight advisers serving 14 high schools throughout Pennsylvania. Program Director Bob Freund hopes to add four more advisers next year in order to increase the number of schools KCAC can visit.
Shanaberger works in two high schools in Juniata County: Juniata and East Juniata high schools. A second F&M alumnus, Mark Lund ‚Äò05, is also a KCAC adviser. He works with students at Forbes Road, McConnellsburg and Southern Fulton high schools in Fulton County.
“Our primary goal is to help first-generation college students navigate the increasingly complex and costly steps to post secondary education,” Freund said.
While developed countries in Europe and Asia have increasing higher education participation rates, the United States’ rate has remained virtually unchanged at 40 percent for the past four decades.
“I do not believe that the perception that college is an option has changed among middle-income and higher-income families, however, it must change among under-represented students if we are going to remain globally competitive,” Freund said.
One of the most common misconceptions these students have, Shanaberger said, is that college costs too much.
“For many students these sticker prices come as a shock. We try to help these students find colleges that fit within their financial means,” she said. Shanaberger spends much of her time discussing financial aid.
Shanaberger sees perceptions changing.
“I have had many refreshing experiences with first-generation, baccalaureate-degree seeking students who realize that they don’t want to be in the same financial positions as their parents,” Shanaberger said.