Listen: North Choice (Hughes)-8204

May 1st is the traditional decision deadline for high school seniors to make their college decisions. Minnesota Public Radio's Art Hughes talked with students at North High School in Minneapolis about how they made their decisions for college.

Students are weighing financial aid and scholarship packages against their academic dreams for the fall semester. Hughes found money and proximity to home are on the minds of college bound seniors.


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ART HUGHES: All year, college bound seniors have mulled their list of selected colleges. There are safe schools, those that the students think they have a good chance of getting into, and stretch schools, those that are more selective, thus offer less chance of admittance. Students and their families are weighing cost, academic offerings, financial aid, and distance from home. Now is the time colleges want students to make a commitment.

In the North High School lunchroom, students noisily congregate in groups. Statistically, four out of five of these students receive free or reduced lunches. The school has one of the lowest income student bodies in the state. The vast majority of the nearly 1,000 students is Black, a population that is typically less likely to go on to college.

But many of the students here are turning shortcomings into strengths. Money is a big factor in North senior Jade Bryant's college decision, but she also wanted something intimate, and that would propel her into law school. She has her choice of four colleges that accepted her. She chose Concordia University in Saint Paul.

JADE BRYANT: I really wanted a small setting college, so majority of them I applied to were private, basically. I actually liked the fact that they have small class sizes, so it's easy for you to talk to that teacher, just in case you need help and all that.

ART HUGHES: She knows she'll have to work, and take out loans to help cover the $24,000 a year tuition. But government grants and a financial aid offer from the school put the private liberal arts college within reach.

JADE BRYANT: I was happy, like, yay, I got accepted. It's exciting.

ART HUGHES: Bryant's classmate, Katelyn Ellis, was accepted to DePaul University in Chicago, and the College of Saint Catherine in Saint Paul. Her 3.7 grade point average attracted enough scholarships to temper the high tuition. But she landed on the University of Minnesota because it has the nursing program she likes, and it's close to home.

KATELYN ELLIS: Because when I was young, I'm like, I want to go away to school. I'm sick of being in Minnesota. And now I'm like, leaving? No, that's not for me. So it just came around when I started getting my acceptance letters and stuff like that. It just hit me like, wow, I'm really going to have to leave the state in June if I decide to go somewhere.

ART HUGHES: Staying close to home is also on the mind of North High basketball standout Kendria Mosby. Her family had unforeseen financial challenges in the past year. She's taking advantage of a program that offers free tuition to Minneapolis Public School graduates at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and other schools. She decided academics rather than athletics, are her keys to the future

KENDRIA MOSBY: Mainly just a good education. College helped me get to where I'm trying to go. Focus on my goals in life to get to where I need to be so I can make sure I have a good life.

ART HUGHES: North High guidance counselor George Mountain is encouraged by students who overcome obstacles to reach beyond high school.

GEORGE MOUNTAIN: Many of the students that pass through our doors are first generation college students. And by that I mean, they haven't had their parents or other significant other people in their family go through the college process. So it's an education process for the parents, not only the students, but the parents.

ART HUGHES: At the same time, Mountain, who's been at North for 19 years, recognizes colleges look to schools like his to help diversify their own student populations.

GEORGE MOUNTAIN: Every outside college wants our kids, our good kids, and they'll get them in their campuses. A lot of times the kids pay nothing to go to school. Colleges want to increase diversity on their campuses, so they're obviously reaching to schools such as North High for that resource.

ART HUGHES: The three North High graduates are counted among the 2/3 of Minnesota seniors who choose to go on to college each year. They're also among the vast majority of those who choose to attend college in their home state to take advantage of financial incentives and family ties. Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio News, Minneapolis.

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