Indiana spends $8.7 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 14 years ago.

And that’s a problem. Ninety-nine percent of jobs created since the Great Recession of 2008 have gone to workers with at least some college, says Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers.

Lubbers unveiled a new state agenda for the agency she leads during her eighth annual State of Higher Education Address last February. Dubbed “Reaching Higher in a State of Change,” Lubbers set a goal of at least 60% of Hoosiers having a four-year degree, two-year degree or an earned credential by 2025. Today, just 43.4% of Indiana residents have education and training past high school.

The “Reaching Higher” initiative will focus on post-secondary degree completion, equity among ethnic groups, talent and measurable change. But we believe college-readiness should remain a primary focus.

Neither Indiana’s “college preparatory” diploma, known as Core 40, nor the General Diploma are rigorous enough to properly prepare Hoosier high-schoolers for a post-secondary education.

Though there has been impressive statewide improvement since 2012 in the number of students who graduated from public high schools and entered college without needing remediation, 20% who graduated with a Core 40 degree had to take at least one remedial course after enrolling at one of Indiana’s state-supported colleges.

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% of students enrolled in remedial courses complete them. Two-thirds of students in four-year colleges needing remediation fail to earn their degrees within six years. Fewer than 8% of students in two-year colleges earn their degrees within four years.

Information shared by Commissioner Lubbers indicates that prior emphasis on college-readiness has paid off. Since 2012, 15% fewer Hoosiers required college remediation. However, in 2016, a whopping 48% of students earning a General Diploma, and 3% of Honors Diploma earners, needed remedial coursework in college.

The key to economic stability in today’s world economy is a post-secondary education, be it a four-year bachelor degree, two-year associate degree or training in a trade. And Indiana’s Core 40 and General diplomas are not making the grade.

- Kokomo Tribune

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