Thursday, January 17, 2019

Colleges work to address rural students' unique challenges

About a third of U.S. college students are from rural areas, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and many must overcome a host of challenges in order to succeed in college. Some colleges are trying to help rural students do just that.

For example, some might come from a high school that doesn't have enough staff to adequately advise all graduating students on college preparedness. Some may come from families where no one else has a diploma and can serve as a role model or source of information about applying to college or getting financial aid, Leigh Guidry reports for the Lafayette Daily Advertiser in Louisiana.

About 59 percent of rural high school grads go straight to college, compared to 67 percent of suburban teens and 62 percent of urban teens. And not all rural students who go to college stick it out: fewer than a fifth of rural adults age 25 and up have a degree. In many rural areas, college enrollment rates have remained lower because high school grads were able to get high-paying jobs in oil, gas, coal, farming, or other industries. But that isn't the case any more, and more rural teens are becoming interested in college, Guidry reports.

Some rural high school grads who do go to college may fail to thrive there because of culture shock. Stewart Lockett of New Iberia, La., told Guidry that attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge was very different from his home town: "The climate and voice was different ... and there was the exposure to a lot of things not in high school, like nontraditional students. That includes transgender students, veterans, older students."

Northwestern State University in Louisiana is one of many colleges trying to smooth such transitions for rural students. The enrollment management office has a team of 10 recruiters who seek out students from rural schools. They also offer a summer camp to teach rural teens about university recruiting and admissions, financial aid, potential majors, and student support staff, Guidry reports.

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