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Decision time arrives for college-bound students who weigh finances and more

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Looking forward
Jade Bryant (left) and Kaitlin Ellis are both heading to college and are both staying close to home.
MPR Photo/Art Hughes

There are safe schools, those that the students think they have a good chance of getting into and then there are stretch schools--those that are more selective, thus 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. 

'Colleges want our kids'
The bulletin board behind North High School guidance counselor George Mountin is filled with pictures of students who continued their educations past high school.
MPR Photo/Art Hughes

At North High School four out of five 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 to college. But many of the students here are turning shortcomings into strengths.  

Money is a big factor in 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 St. Paul.  

"I really wanted a small setting college," Bryant said. "So a majority I applied to were private, basically. I actually liked the fact 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."

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. 

Bryant's classmate Kaitlin Ellis was accepted to DePaul University in Chicago and the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul.

"I was happy like, 'yay, I got accepted. I got in,'" she said.  "I was excited."

Every outside college wants our good kids. They'll get them in their campuses and a lot of time the kids pay nothing.

Kaitlin's 3.7 grade point average attracted enough scholarships to offset the high tuition. But she decided on the University of Minnesota because it has the nursing program she likes and it's close to home. 

"When I was young I'm like, 'I want to go away to school, I'm sick of Minnesota,'" she said. "And now I'm like--leaving? No. That's not for me. It started coming around when I started getting acceptance letters and stuff like that. It just hit me that I'm really going to have to leave the state in June if I decide to go somewhere."

Staying close to home is also on the mind of North High basketball standout Keandria 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.  

"Mainly just (looking for) a good education," Mosby said. "College to help me get to where I want to go. Focus on my goals in life to make sure I get where I need to be to make sure I have a good life." 

North High guidance counselor George Mountin is encouraged by students who overcome obstacles to reach beyond high school.

"Many of the students who pass thorough our doors are first generation college students," Mountin said. "They haven't had parents or other significant family members go through the college process so it's and education process for the parents. Not just the students but the parents."

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

"Every outside college wants our good kids," he said. "They'll get them in their campuses and a lot of time the kids pay nothing. Colleges want to increase diversity on their campuses, they're obviously reaching to schools such as North High for that resource."

The three North High graduates are among the two-thirds of Minnesota seniors who choose to go on to college. 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.