Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with two high schoolers who attend a public school in south Brooklyn. Let's call them Abby and Betty. Both hailed from lower income families whose parents didn't attend college.
My first surprise came rather early as I asked them about college in general and what their plans were. While I assumed most of the country would have serious-if not concrete plans about college and already have started preparing for the application process, their situation was rather different. Neither of them had even thought about college yet and Abby was certain she wasn't going for sure. When asked why, she replied "There's no way I can pay for it!" (That's a cleaned up version - the original had a few expletives.)
When I asked if loans could be an option, Abby was once again adamant that no one would give her a huge loan. This got me asking about how much they thought a college education would cost. "I dunno. Hundreds of thousands of dollars?" - While this was true in case of some elite schools, the average tuition costs for an in-state student at a public university is about 9000 dollars a year and the least expensive universities in New York state are about 5-6000 dollars a year. Betty was equally unaware thinking costs would definitely be in six figures.
Neither of them were aware of the various funding and scholarships available either. The overall trend seemed to be one of lack of awareness. Makes me wonder about the number of high school students who don't end up in college just because they think it's beyond them. A college degree doubles the earning potential of an individual - and there are millions missing out on this due to nothing but ignorance.