Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

June 11, 2014

Students still aren't ready

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

The state commission released 2012 data Tuesday. It found 38 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 one of Indiana’s state-supported colleges.

In 2011, 41 percent of Core 40 graduates required remedial help.

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.

“The cost of college remediation is significant for Indiana students and taxpayers, at nearly $78 million per year in tuition funding, financial aid and direct state subsidies,” Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said Tuesday.

The burden is felt not just by students and residents but the state. Over the last decade, Indiana’s college attainment rate has dropped to 41st in the nation. During the same time, Indiana has fallen into the bottom third among states for percentage of residents living in poverty and to 40th in the nation for per capita personal income.

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