The number of students attending college is on the rise. But the number on pace to graduate on time remains low — especially among students who earned the Core 40 and general diplomas and those who are 21st Century Scholars.
Students need to earn an average of 30 credit hours per year to graduate on time.
Howard County’s 2011 graduates who received an honors diploma fell just short of that goal last year. They earned an average of 28.29 credits during their freshman year of college, according to the commission’s latest College Readiness Reports.
That number goes way down for those students holding a Core 40 or general diploma. They earned an average of 16.29 and 7.23 credits respectively.
That number is 16.34 for 21st Century Scholars.
Those student populations also seem to struggle more academically.
Howard County graduates holding an honors diploma finished their freshman year of college with an average GPA of 3.1.
The average GPA for those with Core 40 diplomas was 2.1, and it was 1.5 for those holding general diplomas.
The county’s 21st Century Scholars didn’t fare much better. Their average freshman-year GPA was 1.9.
That begs the question: Are the state’s high school standards too low?
Lubbers doesn’t think so.
“If the students could master the standards, the standards in and of themselves would be sufficient,” she said.
No one ever said a general diploma would prepare students for college, she said.
But does the Core 40 diploma prepare them? That’s still up in the air.
“We still have not been able to say whether [those students] are ready,” Lubbers said.
Higher education officials are finally working with high schools to help them understand what it actually means to be college ready, Lubbers said. Even getting to that point was difficult, she said.
The state will soon be launching new standards for its 21st Century Scholars that should start boosting college completion rates.