Many students entering college still aren’t ready

Kokomo Tribune

Indiana spends about $7 billion a year on K-12 schools and claims to be a pioneer in education reform. Yet thousands of its high school students are graduating without the basic math, reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college.

That’s what a series of reports from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education have shown since the state started tracking data on the college-readiness of its students eight years ago.

The state commission released 2013 data recently. Though there was statewide improvement of 5 percentage points in the number of students who graduated from public high schools and entered college without needing remediation, 33 percent who graduated with the state’s required “college preparatory” diploma, known as Core 40, had to take at least one remedial course after enrolling at one of Indiana’s state-supported colleges.

College preparedness is a national problem. More than 1.7 million college freshmen across the U.S. take remedial courses each year. The annual cost of remediation to states, schools and students is close to $7 billion, according to a 2012 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Much of that money seems wasted: Fewer than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses complete them. Those who do find their path to graduation delayed or derailed. Two-thirds of students in four-year colleges needing remediation fail to earn their degrees within six years. Fewer than 8 percent of students in two-year colleges earn their degrees within four years.

Over the last decade, Indiana’s college attainment rate has dropped to 41st in the nation. During the same time, Indiana has fallen into the bottom third among states for percentage of residents living in poverty and to 40th in the nation for per capita personal income.

Gov. Mike Pence made college readiness one of his top priorities when taking office in 2013. “The need to remediate our high school graduates is a failure for our students,” he’s said.

And the Indiana College Readiness Report suggests Pence’s call for stiffer high school standards could increase college graduations. The state must act. And it can start by raising high school graduation standards.

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