The season of the Scholastic Aptitude Test ” better known as the SAT ” has arrived for the college-bound. But locally, student interest in the exam is lacking.
Last year, just half of the juniors at Tahoe Truckee and North Tahoe high schools took the test required by most colleges and universities, and the trend doesn’t look likely to change.
“The [residents] who are throwing time and money at education are the educated ones, but in Truckee we have a large number of uneducated families and they are not pushing college for their kids,” said Emily Wexler, a school volunteer and self-proclaimed college advocate. “We have an attitude problem here.”
And according to students at Truckee High, the apathy isn’t just being learned at home.
“[Our counselors] don’t promote scholarships. I don’t even hear about scholarships. I never hear about financial aid,” said Courtney Schneider, a Truckee High junior with a 4.0 grade point average. “There are some teachers that encourage going to college, but I don’t know what I want to do.”
Wexler said she has witnessed similar interactions, and has even heard a counselor tell students that they shouldn’t apply to college because it’s too expensive.
“Truckee High is a predominantly white campus ” of the graduating class of 2005 only 15 percent were non-white,” Wexler said. “Here in Truckee approximately 70 percent of our seniors should be taking the SAT before they graduate.”
Yet, last year just 49 percent took the test.
Meanwhile, at North Tahoe High School, where about one-third of students are Latino, 53 percent of juniors took the test last year.
“We’re doing pretty good; our kids are pretty focused,” said North Tahoe counselor Penny Burney. “But you have to put this in context with the state averages.”
She’s right. Statewide, only 40 percent of all students ever attempt the test.
Locally, obstacles exist. The closest SAT testing centers are in Incline Village and Reno, for one example.
“Getting up at 6 a.m. to drive a student to a test center for a 7:30 arrival on a Saturday morning is a huge obstacle for many families,” Wexler said.
Test fees are also a burden ” $41.50 for the SAT Reasoning Test required for California State University applications. Students who want to attend a University of California school also have to take two SAT Subject tests that average an additional $50 to $60.
“I would take all the tests if they were here in Truckee, but the test sites are far away,” said Schneider. “And they are so expensive. Sixty bucks to take a test?”
In an effort to encourage more juniors to take the SAT, Truckee High Principal Jay Cunningham is using school funds to pay for a bus to drive students to the June 2 exam in Reno. North Tahoe High School students are welcome to ride the bus too.
Funds have also been made available to cover test fees for any student who feels the cost is a financial burden.
“I was unaware that it was an issue to get students to the test,” said Cunningham, who is in his first year as the Truckee principal. “Having come from a large city, I didn’t realize that we didn’t have a local test site.”
So far, just two students have signed up to ride the bus.
But more students need to get on board, Wexler said, because the June test will be the last chance for some students to take the exam before college applications are due.
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