Time the enemy of college completion

Kokomo Tribune

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.

As Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers describes it: Time is the enemy of completion.

“If it takes too long, it’s much less likely students will graduate, and much more likely that they’ll leave without a degree but owing thousands of dollars in student loan debt hanging over their head,” she told us in 2012.

Lubbers released the commission’s 2015 Indiana College Completion Report. It showed progress in on-time graduation rates in 2014, yet fewer than 2 in 5 students attending state-funded four-year colleges finished in four years. Half of those students earned degrees in six years.

At Indiana University Kokomo, 17.3 percent of students graduated in four years, according to the report. IU Kokomo’s on-time graduation rate spiked 4.6 percent in 2014, the best year-over-year improvement of any publicly funded campus in the state.

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 another series of reports from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has shown since the state started tracking data on the college-readiness of its students seven years ago.

In 2013 — the most recent year available — one in three Indiana high school seniors who graduated from public schools with the state’s required “college preparatory” diploma, known as Core 40, had to take at least one remedial course after enrolling at a state-supported college.

Gov. Mike Pence made college readiness one of his top priorities when taking office in 2013. With his leadership, the state must raise high school graduation standards.

This was disbributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.