Half of all students who require remedial coursework drop out of college without finishing their degree
The infographic below was recently shared by ACT. The facts and figures tell a sad story about the real problems with "college for all." According to the Department of Education 19% of high school freshman will not graduate. Fully one-third of those students who do graduate and go on to college do not have the skills to succeed at college and require remedial classes in college.
A Different Standard
Back in the Stone Age, when I applied to college, my application was all about proving that I was able to do college-level work. That is not the standard for admission anymore. In fact, colleges are making money from remedial courses because they cost the same as regular courses, but don't count as credit toward graduation. Remedial courses are part of the reason very few college students graduate within four years.
How Do We Know Who is Ready?
It depends a lot on whom you ask. According to ACT's survey, 90% of high school teachers believe their students are well-prepared for college. Only 25% of professors agree with them. The ACT's own benchmarks agree that 25% of the students who take the ACT are ready to do college-level work. They are most prepared in English (where the benchmark is a paltry 18 out of 36) and least in science, where only 30% of students can meet or exceed the benchmark of 23 out of 36. This is scandalous since the science section is a test of logic and reading charts and graphs, not a test of science knowledge. I once had a teacher tell me that a high score in the science section meant nothing because it was the easiest section of all.
Won't They Catch Up Once They're in College?
Probably not. Their standardized test scores, which indicate college-readiness, are already sorting them into schools with less rigorous standards. As I mentioned, students who have to take a lot of remedial classes are already off the track to graduate in four years. Not only that, half of all students who require remedial coursework drop out of college without finishing their degree. Dropping out of college leads to unemployment and under-employment as well as student debt from those very remedial classes.
What Can We Do?
Make sure your student knows how important it is to learn basic reading comprehension and math skills, no matter his or her major. Focus on developing good study skills before they get to college. Once they learn how to learn, they'll be ready for the challenge of college.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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