Seniors face college costs, career choices Class of '93 ponders several important issues

May 10, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Matt Rho believes the future is "wide open," and finds the prospect exciting.

Chris Beauchamp says he can't plan too far ahead because the world is "changing so rapidly."

Ed Kreipl wants to be a police officer and has applied to the Baltimore County Police Department. He spends half the day at the Central School of Technology, where he takes a multimedia course, the other half at Loch Raven High School.

Career and college finances are major concerns for several Loch Raven High School seniors, who are among the more than 5,000 students from 21 Baltimore County high schools who will be fanning out after graduation next month in search of a future.

Are these concerns typical of the Class of '93?

"They almost certainly are," said Joan Powell, in her sixth year as principal at Loch Raven, one of the smaller county high schools with 975 students. Ms. Powell has been in the county system for 26 years as teacher and administrator.

"The seniors at Loch Raven -- and I would imagine at the other high schools in the county -- are very concerned about their careers," she said. "Social issues are taking second place, although many students are into volunteering."

The trend among students is toward the conservative, Ms. Powell says, as opposed to the avant-garde '60s, when social issues stirred confrontation on high school and college campuses.

"Their primary concern is their future," she says. "They're looking inward."

Laura Emanuel, president of the Loch Raven senior class, is too busy to worry about much of anything except finances.

"The cost of college is a big concern, and I also have a sister at Virginia Tech," she said. Laura will begin Russian studies with a minor in foreign relations at Penn State University in the fall and hopes loans and the financial aid she has applied for will get her through.

Besides school responsibilities, she works at a clothing store in Hunt Valley. "I come home after school, have a snack, watch 15 minutes of my favorite soap, and that's it for TV and leisure," she said.

"Sometimes I feel a sense of pessimism among the students," Ms. Powell says. "It's such a different world, it's more constrictive, and they feel their lives won't be as easy or successful as their parents' were. They want to work immediately, and they're always looking ahead to their careers."

And they understand the value of education to their careers. Based on 1990 figures, male high school graduates between age 25 and 65 were averaging $28,000 annually in salary; females were averaging $19,000. Male college graduates were averaging $45,000 in salary, female graduates $29,000. The figures are from "Investment in Learning," by Edith Rasell and Eileen Applebaum, published by the Economic Policy Institute of Washington.

About 80 percent of the Loch Raven seniors plan to attend a two- or four-year college. About 70 percent of the seniors countywide expect to continue their education, county school officials say.

Loch Raven, at Cromwell Bridge Road and Cowpens Avenue, about 10 minutes north of Towson, draws its students from Cockeysville, Pine Grove, Ridgely and Loch Raven middle schools. Has the school prepared its students for the new world?

"I think we have so far, but the education system has to change," says Ms. Powell, the principal. "We've been too compartmentalized, and we have to relate our instruction more to the real world, and connect one discipline to the other. The day of the teacher being the end-all resource is past. The teacher and the student have to be co-learners."

The current educational buzz phrase is "critical thinking," which means students should be guided to figure things out for themselves, as opposed to learning by repetition and memorization.

"It's like giving someone a jigsaw puzzle without instruction or a picture to go by and telling them, 'You figure it out,' " says Ms. Powell.

A committee is looking into all parts of the curriculum at Loch Raven with the prospect of restructuring it under broad guidelines established by the county school administration as the system moves toward more autonomy for individual schools.

"The explosion in technology, the collapse of world boundaries, the swiftly changing ethnic mix, among other things, are leading us to change our approach to education," Ms. Powell said.

Chris Beauchamp, vice president of the senior class, managing editor of the school newspaper, graphics editor of the yearbook, and employee of a Hunt Valley clothing store, recognizes what Ms. Powell is talking about, that there are risks ahead.

He is going to the University of Maryland at College Park, where he will seek a journalism degree.

"I've always known what I wanted to do, but you can only plan so far ahead because things are changing so rapidly," he said. His college costs will be financed by himself, his parents, who both work, and loans. Room, books, board and tuition at College Park are about $9,000 for in-state students.

Chris feels limited by his finances.

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