One state bill would require students to apply to college

Students in New Mexico would have to apply to at least one two- or four-year college to graduate from high school, under a proposed bill, Doug Criss reports for CNN. 

Students would have to get their post-graduation plan approved by their high school principal, parents, and guidance counselor, Criss writes. Students who can prove they have committed to military service, a vocational program, an apprenticeship, or an internship would be exempt from the college application requirement.

If the bill becomes law, New Mexico will be the first state to make postsecondary plans a high school graduation requirement, says Jennifer Zinth, director of high school and STEM research for the Education Commission of the States.

The bill's sponsors, Rep. Nate Gentry (R) and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D) hope that requiring students to articulate their postsecondary plans will boost the state's high school graduation rate, reports the Associated Press. New Mexico has a 71% high school graduation rate, the second lowest in the nation, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The bill may encourage prospective first-generation college students to consider attending college, says Ivey-Soto. And while the bill does not require students to actually attend college, the process of applying would make students more likely to do so, says Gentry.

How "swag" drives application completion

The bill has received mixed reactions from educators.

The bill may increase the number of students who graduate, but it may also create additional barriers to graduation, Zinth argues. New Mexico would need to ensure they have enough guidance counselors to help students complete high quality college applications and submit financial aid forms, she says. If students don't apply for financial aid, they risk being "accepted to institutions they are unable to afford," she adds.

Some community colleges are stepping in to help high school students navigate the FAFSA. Valencia College, for example, hosts a "FAFSA Frenzy" event that brings high school students to campus to complete their financial aid applications.

Chicago is taking on a similar high school graduation requirement. In 2020, the city plans to require students to have a college acceptance letter, job offer, plans to enter the military, or plans for a "gap year" program to graduate from high school, Criss writes  (Criss, CNN, 2/5; AP/Artesia Daily Press, 2/5; Boyd, Albuquerque Journal, 12/18/17).

Also see: What enrollment managers can learn from Amazon

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