Originally published in Study International – September 24, 2019
Recent joint polls conducted by K12 Inc. and Tallo found that 59 percent of parents are willing to pay higher taxes to fund federal student loan forgiveness programmes, and 63 percent support higher taxes for tuition-free college.
The side-by-side surveys assessed student and parent perceptions of and possible solutions to the “serious” student debt crisis.
K12 is an award-winning online provider of primary and secondary education, serving more than 70 schools and over 2,000 school districts. Morning Consult surveyed 1,000 K12 parents of students from kindergarten to high school.
Tallo is a personalised career pathway platform that connects students with universities, employers, opportunities and scholarships. Tallo conducted the student poll and received more than 700 responses from high school and college students.
Fast facts about the study
- 60 percent of students and 53 percent of parents said schools aren’t doing enough to prepare graduates for the job market.
- Only one in four students are “very confident” about finding a job that pays a living wage after graduation.
- Half of participants in the Tallo survey “strongly agree” that introducing high school students to future career opportunities will help alleviate student debt.
- Just 13 percent of K12 participants “strongly agree” that schools are teaching useful, real-world skills.
View a summary of the findings in the official press release.
Student debt is a bipartisan issue
The K12 parent survey found that a significant number of self-identified Republicans — 44 percent, to be precise — are willing to pay more taxes to fund student debt forgiveness programmes and/or free college plans.
Although 45 percent of participants were self-reportedly “very unfavourable” of Trump, the K12 survey also found that 32 percent of parents did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.
When asked whether he thought the student debt crisis would inspire this demographic to vote in the next election, Dr. Shaun McAlmont, President of Career Readiness Education at K12, told Study International he has “no doubt” that those most affected by student debt will “rally behind potential solutions.”
“It’s important to point out, however, that parents and students support simple strategies that can address this issue, outside of any forgiveness plans: 94 percent of students and 92 percent of parents believe debt could be reduced by offering more opportunities to earn college credit while in high school,” said McAlmont.
Career readiness and dual enrollment opportunities are key
“We can’t allow another generation to get buried by debt. Most of the student debt conversations happening right now revolve around forgiveness plans. K12’s approach is focused instead on student debt prevention,” said McAlmont.
“The reality is, there are millions of jobs expected to open in the next few years that will require highly skilled workers, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. This is especially true in fields like IT and advanced manufacturing.
“Students need to know these things sooner so that they can make well-informed decisions about life after high school, and also have a chance to get a head start by pursuing internships and job-shadow opportunities or taking dual enrollment courses,” said McAlmont.
A core component of K12’s mission is to “build a dual-enrollment culture” by offering a diverse array of dual enrollment programmes. Kevin Chavous, K12’s President of Academics, Policy and Schools, estimated that K12’s dual enrollment courses have saved students more than USD$10 million in tuition costs in just two years.
Schools must prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s careers
Like many of the parents and students surveyed, Tallo CEO Casey Welch believes that schools are failing to teach 21st-century skills for a 21st-century economy. When asked what he thinks schools should do differently, Welch told Study International:
“There’s an unfortunate disconnect between what students are learning in the classroom and what skills employers are looking for in the workplace. Schools can encourage students to start making connections with potential employers and continuing education institutions on the devices they’re already using – their cell phones, laptops, iPads, etc.”
Indeed, Tallo does just that, providing an intuitive platform for students as young as 13 to build a portfolio showcasing their experience, extracurricular activities and test scores.
The app’s prize feature is its direct messaging capabilities. This allows students to connect with employers and opportunities using a medium they understand, taking the pressure out of professional communication and breaking down barriers for those living in rural areas.
“Through Tallo, these students can get themselves in front of people they may have never otherwise met, opening doors and expanding students’ options in ways we’ve never been able to do before,” said Welch.
Reform requires innovation
The evidence is clear: a significant majority of parents and students support a variety of student loan debt reforms.
Though student loan forgiveness programmes will alleviate existing debt, better career readiness education and wider access to dual enrollment programmes will help prevent debt by allowing high school students to forge a career pathway and earn college credit.
To make their programmes more affordable, accessible and suitable for students’ individual needs, schools and universities across America can learn a thing or two from innovative platforms like K12 and Tallo.
Solving student debt, according to McAlmont and Welch, involves:
- reaching students in rural areas
- catering to students’ interests and abilities
- offering students more than one way to learn
- partnering with educational providers to offer a blended approach to learning
McAlmont believes that “efforts like these help students discover their interests sooner, solidify those interests, then put their career plan into motion well before they need to take on student loan debt.”