UL System’s Message to Middle School Students: College Decisions Begin Now

UL System’s Message to Middle School Students: College Decisions Begin Now – Apr 3, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La. – Who wants to be a multi-millionaire?

Asked that question, most middle school students would enthusiastically say, “I do.” But few realize that simply graduating from college will earn them $2 million in their lifetime and that the steps they take in middle school will pave the way to their financial future.

With increasing college entrance requirements, it is crucial that middle school students and their parents focus now on college readiness, University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen said.

The System is trying to reach students and their parents through its website (www.ulsystem.net), informational posters it is sending to eighth graders and presentations by university student leaders. The System also produced public service announcements that have been airing on television.

“Middle school is when students make choices that have a direct impact on their ability to attend and do well in college,” Clausen said. “We are speaking to students in very real terms about the value of a college degree and alerting them to the fact that they simply can’t wait until their senior year in high school to prepare for college.”

Among the facts:

Going to college pays off.

College graduates with a four-year degree will make about $2 million in their lifetime.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau (2002), average national earnings for full-time workers with a college education:

$109,600 – Professional degrees ( lawyers, physicians, engineers, architects, etc.)
$89,400 – Ph.D.
$62,300 – Master’s degree
$52,200 – Bachelor’s degree (four years)
$38,200 – Associate’s degree (two years)
$30,400 – High school graduate
$23,400 – High school dropout

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, to prepare themselves for success in college, eighth graders should:

Take as much advanced math as possible (preferably Algebra I).

Conduct scientific investigations using laboratories and technology. Give oral and written descriptions of findings.

Read 25 books a year in a variety of subjects.

Write as many research papers as possible.

In addition to following these guidelines, students need to prepare for the new college admission requirements that go into effect in 2005.

According to the Louisiana Master Plan for Post Secondary Education: 2001, by 2005 all public four-year institutions in Louisiana will increase their high school course requirements to be consistent with the current requirements of the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). They also will require students to have a minimum high school grade point average of 2.0 – 3.0 (depending on the university), or an ACT composite score of 20-25 (depending on the university), or a designated high school graduation rank (depending on the university).

Although the UL System is aiming its message at eighth graders, current high school freshmen and sophomores must also meet the new requirements to enter college and to obtain a TOPS scholarship.

Earning a TOPS scholarship can significantly reduce the cost of a college education. It can cover the base tuition at a public university and, depending on the student’s grades and ACT scores, as much as an additional $400 per semester for an honors scholarship. TOPS can also be used for Louisiana’s private universities, community colleges and technical colleges.

Information about TOPS and the Board of Regents core curriculum is available on the UL System website and is included on the posters the System is distributing to middle schools.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette SGA President and ULS Student Board Member Jessica Clarke, one of eight UL System SGA presidents who visited middle schools last fall, said eighth graders were receptive to the message but that many had not begun to think seriously about college.

“More students need to see college as an expectation, not just a hope. We believe that all students can attend college but they must set that expectation for themselves, and they shouldn’t let anything divert them from that goal,” said Clarke.

Clausen said a key component of the campaign is to inform parents as well as students. The poster includes a letter from Clausen and Kerry Davidson, Director of LA GEAR UP, urging eighth graders and their parents to “team up” for the future by taking responsibility for college preparation now.

Westdale Middle School (Baton Rouge) Principal Sherry Brock also stressed the importance of parental involvement. “Administrators and teachers are aware of the courses students should take, but the students should be aware of it, their parents should be aware and they should take a part in picking the courses for their children.”

The poster was designed by Louisiana Tech University’s Office of Marketing and Public Relations. LA GEAR UP, a new federally funded Louisiana initiative designed to increase the number of low-income students who enter and succeed in college, contributed funds for the poster’s production.

For more information about preparing for college, go to the UL System’s website at www.ulsystem.net.