Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Best of 2016, and Predictions for 2017

By:  Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

There are two great parts to the last day of school before December Break. The first one is the student who has the poise to wear fake reindeer antlers to school. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach— somewhere in your building, a kid is showing off his best Blitzen. Seek them out, and assure them they will be going to college.

The second great part is that the last day almost always gives three minutes to us, to look back on what went well this year, and to think about what lies ahead. Many people seem to be ready to let go of 2016, but the teachings of Eric Erikson remind us of the importance of choosing Integrity over Despair at the end of a life cycle. Since that’s what a year is, let’s take a look at the good in college admission:

FAFSA Filing Changes instituted this year made it possible for students to find out what a college would actually cost them well before they had to choose which college to attend, making it more like the purchase of, say, everything else. There are still some bumps in the system, but this emerges as the game changer of 2016.

For-Profit Clean-Up It wasn’t very pretty, but actions were taken this year to make sure for-profit colleges were delivering on their promises, and those that didn’t were dealt with and closed. As a result, the world of choice becomes a world of better choice.

States Rediscover Counselors The end of the year finds several states finding and devoting resources to improving school counselor training and ratios, including a report from Colorado showing a modest investment in counselors has already saved the state $300 million. Now that ESSA gives more flexibility to the states, will 2017 be The Year of the Counselor?

College Testing’s Value Questioned Bleak reports of overseas security issues with college tests, combined with incredibly late submission of test results to colleges, put both SAT and ACT on school counselor’s naughty lists. The good came when more colleges used the opportunity to reevaluate the importance of testing in the admissions process, choosing to make reporting of test scores optional for most students.

Given these changes, what can we expect to see in 2017?

Obama Farewell Unless John Harvard had been elected our next president, we all knew 2017 would be a change in the way The White House was going to support college access. Reach Higher efforts will continue with Better Make Room, but the coming year will find fewer messages of “Yes, You Too” from the First Couple. Here’s hoping someone picks up the slack.

College Control and the States Changes in federal law will give more authority and funding autonomy in education to the states. The plus here is that states can now tailor programs to better meet local needs; the potential minus is the lack of federal standards when evaluating value and success. Stay tuned.

Counselors are Ambassadors, Too The federal government has long given teachers the chance to shape education policy directly through the School Ambassador Program. Counselors will be allowed to participate in this program for the first time in 2017, and now is the time to apply.

College Isn’t Just Four Years The Great Recession somehow hoodwinked most people into believing four years of college was the only way to a great job. Data, common sense, and the efforts of many organizations are waking society from that dream, creating more options for The Class of 2017. Expect this trend to grow.

Now, go rest.

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