Five Questions with GtCNN: Dr. Eileen Holden

Tuesday, November 01, 2016
What systematic reforms are needed to ensure all students receive the individual supports they need to complete high school ready for postsecondary education or training?
Providing career and college advising services to students while they are in high school is critical to helping them understand their options. The average ratio of high school students to guidance counselors is 400-500 to 1, making it impossible for schools to provide adequate support to all students. At Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School, the ratio is 199 to 1, which is still challenging. Additional advising staff would make it easier to address students’ individual needs.

What is the most effective way for higher education and K-12 to work together to support the success of disconnected youth?
Collaboration between higher education and K-12 institutions is crucial to supporting disconnected youth. Mentoring programs can provide students with much needed support that they may not receive at home. When K-12 and higher education institutions work together, the success of K-12 students is more viable, and the transition of high school graduates to college programs is less challenging. More opportunities for collaboration between higher education and K-12 institutions are needed.

What is the value of dual enrollment for young people and for their communities?
Dual enrollment is invaluable. Introducing students to the college environment and academic expectations prepares them for their future college experiences. Dual enrollment eases students into the often intimidating processes of selecting courses, applying for financial aid, accessing academic advising, etc., readying them to successfully navigate college on their own when the time comes.

College access has been receiving considerable attention in recent years. What are the biggest hurdles that remain in this area?
Affordability is the largest hurdle. A student’s financial situation, even with financial aid, continues to be the largest hurdle to college access. Students are often working multiple jobs in order to support themselves, their families, and their education. These pressures limit the ability of students to complete their college education in a timely fashion.

What advice would you give to civic and state leaders who want to take more of a role in addressing high school graduation and college completion rates?
Community and corporate partnerships help schools offer more engaging educational experiences to their students. Being able to offer internships at local companies, or through state-funded programs, can go a long way toward increasing high school and college completion rates, because such opportunities help students connect what they’re learning to the real world and set long-term goals for their education and their lives.

Dr. Eileen Holden is the president of Polk State College and a member of the Gateway Presidents' Circle

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