Diana Jean Schemo wrote a fascinating story in Saturday's New York Times, "At 2-Year Colleges, Student Eager but Unready." The problem:
As the new school year begins, the nation’s 1,200 community colleges are being deluged with hundreds of thousands of students unprepared for college-level work.
Though higher education is now a near-universal aspiration, researchers suggest that close to half the students who enter college need remedial courses.
That's an astounding figure. What was high school if not the place to get the basic skills? The article continues:
Michael W. Kirst, a Stanford professor who was a co-author of a report on the gap between aspirations and college attainment, said that 73 percent of students entering community colleges hoped to earn four-year degrees, but that only 22 percent had done so after six years.
“You can get into school,” Professor Kirst said. “That’s not a problem. But you can’t succeed.’’
Nearly half the 14.7 million undergraduates at two- and four-year institutions never receive degrees. The deficiencies turn up not just in math, science and engineering, areas in which a growing chorus warns of difficulties in the face of global competition, but also in the basics of reading and writing.
I could understand the need for remedial work if I thought 4-year college admissions were extremely competitive. They certainly are at the most selective institutions, with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all around 10 percent acceptance rates. But this is not universally true. A quick look at the US News rankings (here's a recent summary) shows that even the top public universities are likely to admit half or more of those who apply.
Low standards--and our high school graduates are still not meeting them. This is a crisis that should be getting more attention.