By Ed Devine

Wow…the ease of summer is a distant memory. We have already completed three weeks of the fall recruitment season, and on the eve of the San Diego NACAC Conference, it seems like the treadmill never shut off. I love reflecting at this time, on the funnel aspect of what college admissions is about. College reps will log thousands of miles and counselors will spend endless hours with students and families; this is a time of information gathering. It is a time when more questions are created than answers are found. It is the view from the clouds and anticipation of where the landing will take us.

As professionals, we realize we are at the wide open end of the funnel, and that the move through time will lead to an ever narrowing search that will come to a close in May. But, we all face some fear and uncertainty at this time. Am I visiting the right high schools? Did I assemble a strong list for my students? Questions arise on both sides of the desk. Doubt will of course also arise for our high school students as they launch into their college search. The beginning of the funnel is the 30,000 foot view from above.

At the opening of the NACAC Conference, I will have a chance to address the more than 7,000 attendees. Below is some of what I will share with our visitors, in hopes they will get a sense of what the higher education landscape is like in California. Our unique landscape (and that I say with admission experience in almost every part of this country) presents some challenges of course, but it also tests us as professionals as we help shepherd young people to the opportunities they deserve.

NACAC opening address:
California boasts the 8th largest economy in the world and is home to 38.8 million people. San Diego County is home to 3.2 million people. It is also home to over 7,000 farmers, the most of any city in the US, and we produce the most avocados. Many of America’s bravest in our Armed Services also call San Diego home. We are known for our perfect year-round weather, great surfing, our proximity to Mexico, and as of late, our micro-breweries – all reasons that over 34 million people visit us each year.

California, I am sad to report, however, is also known for having the worst student to college counselor ratio in the nation. At 950 students per counselor, we are not even close to the recommended ratio of 250:1. We need to support those counselors working against the odds. I am so happy to report that this National Conference will set a record, beyond the one for most sunscreen used, as we are welcoming the most public high school counselors ever to a National Conference! Thank you to all who helped make that happen.

I want to take a minute here to also welcome our community college counselors and transfer admission personnel from around the country. California has an amazing 113 community college campus system and every year over 120,000 of our high school graduates matriculate at one of those campuses. To the four-year colleges recruiting in California, if you are not focused on transfer admission, you are missing some great students.

As visitors, we hope you have time to learn more about the prolific public university system of CA. Our State Master Plan called for access for all citizens to state-funded education. There are 9 UC Campuses, 23 Cal State campuses, in addition to the community college system. California is also home to 77 powerful and diverse private colleges and universities.

It is funny to hear college reps who are new to California recruitment tout that CA is in the top 10, or top 5 states represented in their college’s student population. Why? Because that goes for almost every college in the US. Approximately 400,000 seniors will graduate from California high schools next year and there simply are not enough in-state options to fill the demand.

We know that many of our amazing California students are finding college homes beyond the borders of the Golden State. But we hope that our students return to California with their newly minted degrees in hand. It is estimated that the state of California’s labor pool will be almost 2 million college graduates short by the year 2025.

It is so exciting to be sharing our city with over 7,000 professionals who are bound by a common goal of creating access to higher education for ALL students. Whether you are at an established private organization, a comprehensive state organization, a non-profit group or you are one of the trail-blazers who has hung your own shingle, we hope you find in these next three days a sense of fellowship, a feeling of inspiration, and a drive to dig deep throughout the next year.

Stay Classy San Diego!