Why don't more Vt. students choose to attend college? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why don't more Vt. students choose to attend college?

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"I had no idea what I wanted to major in or anything whatsoever, but I've come here and things come out clearer," Marko Onyskiv said.

Onyskiv is a freshman at the University of Vermont now, but almost delayed going to college because it seemed so overwhelming.

Figuring out the barriers to college for all students was the focus of UVM's Increasing College Enrollment Event Tuesday. Education advocates say for some high school students, getting together their applications, transcripts and other necessary materials is the last thing on their minds when they are just trying to survive.

"Just imagine as a child, not eating for a day or two, and trying to sit there and pay attention to what the teacher is saying; it's really complicated. Let alone be at home and have no one to help you with homework, to just sit down and although you had well intentioned people, like my mama wanted to help, but she had her limits with her lack of education," said Paul Hernandez of the United Way.

Hernandez was the keynote speaker. He grew up as an "at-risk" student, but overcame the obstacles of growing up poor to get a Ph.D. and help other at-risk youth. This week's event brings together local educators to try to understand why Vermont high school students are performing well, but then choosing not to attend college. One theory is lack of understanding or attitudes toward financial aid options.

"My parents say I can't afford this, they worked themselves through school, if they went, I can do the same thing-- which is not true today-- or I don't believe in loans," said Linda Shiller of VSAC.

Vermont has the highest graduation rate in the nation at 88 percent, but only 53 percent attend college and only 26 percent of that 53 percent stay in Vermont to do so.

"There's some disconnect there. Is it... are young people getting the information they need in order to prepare themselves for college?" said Fayneese Miller, the dean of education and social services at UVM.

Some UVM students we spoke to agree that without the proper guidance, going to college would have been tough.

"My guidance counselor helped me a lot, helped me through the process. I had a lot of help while applying," said Brandon Lim, a student at UVM.

"My guidance counselor encouraged going," Onyskiv said.

"Yeah, my mom helped me a lot, so that also made it a lot easier for me," said Mia Cosentino, a junior at UVM.

The Increasing College Enrollment event continues through this week.

Organizers of the event tell us that after gathering their findings, they plan to present the information and a suggested plan to state government to encourage education legislation.

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