It's an incredibly uncomfortable scene. Michael Scott returns to the class of student to whom he made the pledge 10 years earlier that if they graduated from high school, he would pay for their college. Now as they anticipate this promise being fulfilled, they perform a song to demonstrate their appreciation:
|Group:||Hey Mister Scott, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do make our dreams come true! Hey Mister Scott, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do make our dreams come true!|
|Student:||You came into our lives and made a promise. That made us honest. Made us realize, we don't need to compromise!|
|Group:||We can have it all!|
|Student:||'Cause you made it possible. For us to achieve the improbable|
|Group:||Hey Mister Scott, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do make our dreams come true!|
But here it comes. For anyone who's watched the show, you know that good intentions often result in bad outcomes for Michael. He can't do it. He doesn't have the money. Lesson still unlearned, he promises to pay for there books as a consolation, but upon learning how expensive those are, has to renege on that as well.
As he and the office receptionist Erin walk out of the school, she makes an observation:
|Erin:||The principal told me that ninety percent of Scott's Tots are on track to graduate and that's thirty-five percent higher than the rest of the school. I think that if you hadn't made that promise a lot of them would've dropped out, which is something to think about, I think.|
That is something to think about. Expectations about the future are very powerful determinants of present behavior. If I expect it to rain, I'll bring an umbrella. If I expect to overindulge in the yummy, calorie-lade deliciousness that the upcoming holiday season presents (and I do), I'll start having more salads for lunch now. Similarly, for kids who can't see themselves being able to pay for college, they likely also won't see themselves going to college. Introducing the expectation that that door will be open can help motivated them to perform in way that will make that expectation a reality, like staying in school and investing more academic effort. Since kids can discount the possibility of college as early as 5th grade, the sooner that expectation can be set, the better.
Savings has been shown to be a tool that uniquely helps build a child's expectations and resources for college. But, for low-income kids who need the biggest boost in each, saving can be fraught with barriers.
The good new is that there are steps that we can take to expand savings, and consequently, educational opportunities for these students. I've recently written a piece on this subject for the Christian Science Monitor. Click here to take a look.