According to a Hechinger Report investigation of 44 states, the vast majority of public two- and four-year colleges report enrolling students who are not ready for college-level work. The report cites a truly alarming number: more than half a million students!
“The numbers reveal a glaring gap in the nation’s education system: A high school diploma, no matter how recently earned, doesn’t guarantee that students are prepared for college courses. Higher education institutions across the country are forced to spend time, money and energy to solve this disconnect. They must determine who’s not ready for college and attempt to get those students up to speed as quickly as possible, or risk losing them altogether,” explains Sarah Butrymowicz of the Hechlinger Report.
And, while it may not surprise parents to hear that high school students floundering academically continue to struggle when they begin college classes, shouldn’t high achieving “A students” be assured of college readiness?
The reality may be surprising!
According to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, about half of first-year college students discover that, despite earning excellent GPAs in high school, they are simply not ready for the rigors of college level classes.
In Delaware, 42% of public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers (data from state’s 2016 College Success Report). And all across the country, far too many students are graduating from high school unprepared for the difficulty of a college course.
In addition, students who do not score well on college placement tests may be forced to take, and pass, non-credit, remedial courses before entering the college-level courses required for their degrees. These courses often cost the same as credit-bearing classes, but don’t count toward a student’s degree.
The truth is, sadly, acceptance to college does not guarantee real readiness for college.
The impact of remedial college courses
Nationally, less than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses actually finish them. Furthermore, 3 in every 10 students who require remediation in college never graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree.
For some students taking remedial courses can set them a full semester or more behind. For students depending on financial aid to cover the costs of college, this can increase their overall debt as many scholarships will not cover these courses.
Several states across the country are starting to examine the remediation issue as more students are dropping out of college, taking longer to complete their degrees or graduating with significant debt. Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students from low-income families.
How to prepare properly for college level courses
For students, the path to remediation begins early. As students and parents work with their schools to select classes each year, they may not realize that not all classes will equally prepare students for success in college. The difference between an Advanced Placement course or a college prep course may ultimately mean a student graduates less prepared for college-level English, for example.
Similarly, students taking less rigorous courses in math will find themselves more likely to be placed in remedial courses. This means that a student placed in Algebra II over calculus is also at a disadvantage and more likely to need college remediation than if the student had been given the opportunity to enroll in more-difficult classes.
“The shift from 12th grade to college should be as simple as the shift from eighth grade to ninth grade or kindergarten to first grade,” said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer. “Every student with a college acceptance letter and a Delaware high school diploma should be prepared to succeed in the college he or she chooses to attend.”
College preparation opportunities in Delaware
Over the past few years, Delaware school districts have increased access to college-level courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. In addition, the state began a pilot course in the 2014-15 school year called Foundations of College Math to serve as a bridge course for students likely to require remediation in college.
These efforts are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012. For more information on the state’s College Success Report, visit the Delaware Department of Education.
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