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Lack of Support Causes Students to Melt

Here at NMSI, we have long been aware of the achievement gaps that are present in America’s school system, and we have highlighted time and again the need for support among minorities and other under-represented groups in STEM fields. And even though we have made great strides in alleviating these issues, the fact remains that there are still students out there who are not getting the support they need in order to become college and career ready, as evidenced by a new report from Harvard University.
The report examines what researchers Benjamin L. Castleman and Lindsay C. Page refer to as “summer melt,” a phenomenon in which “low-income students who had paid college deposits reconsidered where, and even whether, to enroll in the months following graduation.” In other words, something happened to make these high school graduates completely change their minds about pursuing a college education, and after pooling surveys and administrative data, the researchers found that these “summer melt rates” ranged from 8 to 40 percent.
The researchers believe that the melting phenomenon is occurring among these low-income students because they lack either the funds for college, or they don’t have the guidance and support that they had during high school to help them through the various registration processes.
Here are a few staggering statistics from the report:
•Only 7% of low-income youth attain a four-year degree by the age of 26.
•By the same age, 51% of the wealthiest quartile of students attain a four-year degree.
•51% of students who aspire to at least a four-year degree were accepted into a four-year college, but only 41% successfully enrolled the next fall.
These numbers should not be so low, and there are ways to bring them up. The report states that “it is imperative to investigate how to effectively mitigate summer melt,” but it offers no concrete solution of how to do so. However, we at NMSI know that strong community engagement can help address these issues – especially by  parents and other mentors from the private sector where they could one day be employed. Students need role models to inspire them to pursue a college education, and they need as much support as they can get.