College Or Career? Why Not Both? The Case For A College And Career Readiness Curriculum For High Schools

This blog series spotlights the ten policy recommendations from our latest Making the Case Report: A Policy Blueprint to Increase Financial Aid Uptake. Each week, we’ll focus on a key strategy designed to increase FAFSA/WASFA completion and financial aid attainment.

While we explore these specific policy recommendations, our team will continue to track and report on the broader legislative landscape. We’ll keep you updated on bills related to student-centered policies throughout the 60-day session. For a real-time update of relevant bills, please visit our 2024 bill tracker.

“What do you want to do after high school?” The occasionally dreaded but hopefully optimistic intersection each student must address at some point throughout their academic journey. Facing that future can be both an exhilarating and challenging prospect for many graduates looking to spread their newfound wings. To better steward these students toward a path of success, we propose endorsing a College and Career Readiness curriculum for all high schools. Whether it’s college, a career, or active citizenship, this designated course is intended to provide students with a personal roadmap for social and economic mobility.

Policy Recommendation #9

Introduce a College and Career Readiness Course in High School.

A College and Career Readiness course could be developed in alignment with the vision of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction that all students are prepared for postsecondary pathways, careers, and civic engagement. The course curriculum should outline the knowledge secondary students should obtain and the types of skills relevant for a successful transition to postsecondary and the workforce. Financial aid navigation and FAFSA/WASFA completion would be embedded within individual units of the course curriculum and as part of a student’s larger college and career readiness plan. This approach may prove to be more effective than simply requiring FAFSA or WASFA completion as an isolated action.

This also dovetails with broad interest among educators and students for life skills education opportunities, as was a theme in a student voice research project completed by the Foundation for Tacoma Students in the summer of 2023.

State Example

After piloting a career and college readiness course for several years, the state of Mississippi made their College and Career Readiness Course a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2022. The course is an equivalent of one full Carnegie unit, and consists of at least one semester taught in the junior or senior year. The course requirements can be satisfied with numerous substitutions, including career and technical education courses or work-based learning, dual credit courses, JROTC, and Advanced Placement Seminars, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International Courses. 

The 2023 curriculum includes a personal finance and financial literacy component, with a comprehensive sequence of units, accompanying competencies, and specific objectives. Units include:

  1. Introduction to College and Career Readiness 
  2. The Student Portfolio and Exhibit 
  3. College Selection 
  4. Applying for Financial Aid 
  5. Preparing for a Career and Internship 
  6. Financial Literacy 
  7. Community Service 
  8. Digital Literacy and Citizenship 
  9. College Transition/Summer Melt