You hear a lot of news reports about the big percentage of high school dropouts, but you probably haven't heard much about the high rate of college dropouts, but that's a big problem, too. Fewer than 60% of students attending four-year colleges graduate within six years, according to a report by the American Enterprise Institute. Noncompetitive colleges average only a 34% graduation rate, and many community colleges fall far below even that.
President Obama said he wants all young people to go to college, so that “By 2020, America will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Obama’s budget includes $2.5 billion to increase college completion rates. But it doesn't make sense to spend taxpayer dollars to send more kids to college if they have to take remedial classes to learn what they didn't learn in high school.
One reason for the deplorable graduation rate is that a large proportion of students enter college with inadequate reading and math skills. Before they can take even freshman-level classes, these students must spend time and tuition dollars completing remedial English and math courses that do not earn credit towards a college degree. A 2004 Department of Education study reported that 42% of freshman need remedial classes. A 2008 report found that 90% of City University of New York students taking their first college math class could not solve a simple algebra problem. Many high schools simply do not prepare students for college-level coursework. 57% of California students who had high-school grade point averages over 3.1 nonetheless required remediation in math and/or English during their freshman year of college.
Surprisingly, most of the discussion about how to fix the problem of college dropouts centers on changing the colleges rather than strengthening high school courses so students will be better prepared for college.
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