Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 20, 2014

Time: enemy of completion


Kokomo Tribune

---- — College preparedness is a national problem, we reported in January. 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.

Last week, Lubbers released the commission’s first Indiana College Completion Reports. They found just 3 in 10 students attending state-funded four-year colleges graduated in four years. Half of those students earned degrees in six years.

At Indiana University Kokomo, 15 percent of students graduated in four years, according to the reports. Thirty-four percent earned degrees in six years, and 43 percent completed their coursework in eight years.

“Improving college completion is a complex problem, but overcoming Indiana’s completion challenge begins with a clearer understanding of where we are and where we need to go,” Lubbers said in a statement.

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 Commission for Higher Education has shown since the state started tracking data on the college-readiness of its students six years ago.

In 2011 — the most recent year available — 41 percent of 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 last January. With his leadership, the state must raise high school graduation standards.