This is the time of year when many high school graduates are agonizing over their college class schedule, or trying to find their way around a new campus. Others are starting technical training so they can get certified in a field and begin their careers. But far too many recent high schools graduates won’t make it to their new programs this fall – despite having enrollment, financial aid, and other key details prepared. School administrators describe this problem as the “summer melt,” and it is keeping many young people in our community – especially in our low-income and minority communities – from reaching their full potential.
Young people are caught up in the summer melt for many reasons. Some kids may be the first generation in their family to attend college; others experience pressure from friends who aren’t going to college, while others still didn’t have someone to help them make sure their paperwork needed to enroll and file for financial aid is completely ready. Meanwhile, studies consistently show that education beyond high school is critical to a successful career. This is especially the case for the Millennial generation, who are feeling the effects of the recent Great Recession even more than other age groups.
We cannot afford to lose these kids. Their potential is too great, and a missed opportunity at higher education can haunt them throughout their working years. Our community will benefit if everyone can reach their full potential and make Colorado even more vibrant.
Just as we all stand to benefit from young people’s success, everyone shares an obligation to help them along the way. High school graduates who may be vulnerable to the summer melt phenomenon need all of our attention, encouragement, and support. From educators to employers, community leaders to ordinary citizens, we all have a role to play.
In Congress, I’m working to try to keep the cost of college down by pushing for a strong PELL grant program and low student loan interest rates. I am also supporting legislation to refinance all current student loan rates to the minimum level possible, saving students and young workers an astonishing $70 billion. I will also be convening a number of groups that work with students to learn what more can be done. I hope you can join this effort in several ways: volunteer to mentor a student who doesn’t have a role model who has attended college; help a local kid with his or her financial aid packet; talk to students regularly about their needs or concerns; or connect a college student you know with a high schooler who could use a peer mentor. Together we can help every kid realize their dreams.
Editor’s note: Rep. Diana DeGette represents Colorado’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.