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A campaign to prod high school students into college tries a new tack: Making it simple

A campaign to prod high school students into college tries a new tack: Making it simple

The Hechinger Report

Jon Marcus
December 30, 2023
Aléshah Brown wasn’t yet in high school when she started having doubts about college.
“Even in middle school, you’re feeling all this pressure and stress about going to college, but no one’s asking you, ‘What do you want to do?’ ” said Brown, of San Antonio, Texas. “That was a very stressful thing for me.”
This anxiety, along with the cost and other issues, is among the many things discouraging growing numbers of students from even applying to college.
Brown eventually found a website that promised, in plain and simple English, to help her start her journey. Much of the information was conveyed by other young people who had already graduated from high school and begun careers. And the site prominently included how much money she could make in particular jobs.
“It’s showing students, ‘Hey, let’s see what you individually like to do, what you love and how you can make a difference in the world,’ ” she said. “You’re being asked that question instead of being given this general list of options that you don’t understand.”
This clear-cut, straightforward message didn’t come from academics or administrators, policymakers or politicians. It’s the brainchild of an advertising executive, Roy Spence, the man behind such well-known slogans as “Don’t Mess With Texas” and “You are now free to move about the country.”
Spence’s campaign underscores how glaringly little the higher education industry itself has done to confront the crisis of confidence that is eating away at its business.
“Universities tend to have a hard time having a very clear, focused message,” said Eunkyu Lee, associate dean and a professor of marketing at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. “There’s a lot more focus on rankings and much less collective effort to rebuild confidence in the value of higher education.”
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