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Mapping a life path

Students deciding more at younger age, counselors say

Staff writer

Marion County students seem to be determining specific careers before graduation and deciding to pursue further education, school counselors say.

Marion High School counselor Mark Felvus said students typically did not make informed decisions in the past.

“It used to be that kids were told to go explore, go find yourself at college,” Felvus said. “Now, with the cost of college, students need to have a much better idea of what they want to go into ahead of time.”

Felvus pins interested students’ names next to mascots on a state map near his office.

“The most popular schools seem to be what I call the ‘purple funnels,’” Felvus said. “Over the last four years I have been here, well over 50 percent of MHS students have elected to go to Kansas State University or south to Butler Community College.”

KSU’s agriculture program has attracted many students because is just far enough away from home and has “opportunity around every corner,” Felvus said.

“I think kids are generally making more informed decisions,” Felvus said. “Kids will ask specific questions about certain schools.

“Kids are hearing that they need to pick a school for the academic rather than the athletic program because most are not going to be playing sports the rest of their lives. The athletic stuff is just the icing on the cake.”

Hillsboro student services coordinator Jill Hein said Butler offered college credit for courses they can take in high school.

“It saves a lot of money,” she said.

Many students choose to go to a two-year college for financial reasons, Goessel counselor Janna Duerksen said.

“Many kids say they are going to a junior college for two years to get their general education requirements out of the way before they transfer to a bigger college,” Duerksen said. “They’re realizing the four-year schools are expensive. Parents are, too.”

While a two-year college can save money, Duerksen cautions students to check with their intended institutions to make sure credits will transfer from one school to another.

“What I found is that schools rarely decline to accept a credit,” she said, “but they often won’t accept the credit as you intended it to be.”

Guidance counselor Jill Day said some Centre students also go the route of a two-year college because of the smaller class sizes. She said Butler also offers tuition reimbursement for college level classes high school students take.

KSU is a popular choice for Centre graduates because of its proximity and science, engineering, and design majors.

“Kids are definitely pinpointing their interests at an earlier age,” Day said.

Marion County schools regularly have visits from college representatives, including universities, two-year colleges, and technical schools.

Some students are electing to pursue technical and vocational fields because they prefer hands-on learning and a quicker, cheaper route to a profession.

“Senate Bill 155 is really changing the way kids, and parents, think about college,” Day said.

The bill, passed in 2012, seeks to stimulate growth in career and technical education by providing tuition reimbursement.

A certification incentive program was established for students who graduate from high school with an industry-recognized certification that leads directly to a high-demand occupation in Kansas.

Transportation reimbursement also is provided to school districts that shuttle students off campus to complete college-level CTE coursework.

The state is incentivizing students to enter into a path of study that matches what they want to after high school, Duerksen said.

Every pathway has an articulation agreement with a college, she said, where at least one of the classes students take in high school counts for credit.

Duerksen said some Goessel students use the bill to pay for certificate programs that can lead to employment in fields like welding, nursing, or truck driving.

“Some are doing it as a way to get a better job to help pay for college,” she said. “Others are using it as a step to get into the field they want to go into.”

Felvus said that students don’t need to go to a four-year school to be successful.

“We don’t shoot them down if they’re interested,” Felvus said, “but not every student benefits from a lecture hall.

“The way kids learn is so much more diverse that it used to be. We have to meet those needs.”

Last modified Nov. 24, 2015

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