College access vs. success

College graduation rates are low for Pell Grant recipients, who come from low- and moderate-income families. But requiring colleges to raise Pell graduation rates would shut out the neediest students for whom the grants were created, writes an analyst.  “One of the easiest ways to increase graduation rates is to exclude high-risk students.”

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  1. Katie Jones says:

    I didn’t realize the trend with Pell grants and graduation rates from college. I find this interesting, although I do think that there are exceptions to this rule and that there are people who graduate college who have received Pell grants.

  2. The issue isn’t one of access to college, but the question that parents should be asking themselves, and their children is:

    Do you have the academic skills to make it through a 4 year college program? (I’m also in favor of most students starting at a community or junior college for their first two years and core coursework).

    IMO, a better way to judge this is to review the student’s SAT or ACT score starting in the 11th grade (when most students take this exam)…if their score doesn’t match the grades being given, it’s Q and A time for the parents with the school and the student.

    A student who has a GPA of 3.2 or better should be getting close to a composite score of 28 or higher on the ACT (out of a max. of 36), and better than 1200 on the Reading/Math portion of the SAT.

    Questions need to be asked when a ACT/SAT score doesn’t match the grades the student is given, IMO.

    • I agree with you Bill, but we’ve got to accept that teachers are grading for much more (less?) than content mastery. I’ve seen syllabi where 60% of the grade is for journaling and crafts projects and notebook checks – in middle and high school math class. Then the “test” component is multiple choice based on questions already gone over in class. B pretty much stands for “breathing”, based on the data I know; I’d wager that 3.2 is closer to 900 SAT/22 ACT.

      Content mastery isn’t the goal, graduating kids and getting them to college IS.

      Frankly, there’s an agency problem here – teachers typically LIKE their students and want them to do well; it takes effort to hold out a high standard and stick to it; knowing that some of the students will bark their shins on the hurdle. Part of me thinks we should put the grade from the teacher right next to the “end of course” exam administered and graded by some objective authority and let the data be used as may be. “Well Timmy; Mr. Smith gave you an A+, but you’re in the bottom 5% of the state on your EoC – why might that be?”

      Parents aren’t going to typically have that conversation with their kids for even MORE reasons.

      • “Frankly, there’s an agency problem here – teachers typically LIKE their students and want them to do well;”

        Which is why I do my best to go into the school year hating my students…I only end up liking them if they deserve it.

  3. You all also need to recognize the financial and logistical burden on a family of having a student out of the workforce and/or unavailable to care for children and elders, work in the family business, etc. Of course it’s possible for a college student to work and/or be available for family needs, but it’s much harder. For some reason this is hard for the non-poor to grasp, but it’s a huge challenge.

    • This is nothing new. It was true for my DH’s contemporaries, many of them new immigrants, in the 40s-50s. What is new is the expectation that kids arriving here as non-English speakers, with parents who had never attended or graduated from high school, would be academically prepared for college 5-10 years later. Some were, of course, but most families took more than one generation to arrive at college-grad status – as did many non-immigrant families.

      Bill is right that many kids who start college are so academically un/underprepared that successful completion of even a certificate program is unlikely. As a taxpayer, I feel that Pell Grants should be restricted to those whose SAT/ACT scores make successful completion academically likely. Being prepared for college’s academic demands also makes it more likely that students are able to work/meet family responsibilities during college. Work during college was a regular part of the lives of my contemporaries and those of my DH. Arrriving in college, even a CC, with the academic preparation of a seventh-grader (or less) makes success a very long shot.

  4. Crimson Wife says:

    Nobody “needs” to go to college. I believe that low-to-moderate income students who successfully complete a degree or certificate program and pass some sort of outside certification exam (to verify that the degree/certificate is worth more than the piece of paper upon which it is written) should have their student loans forgiven. But it is a total waste of taxpayer money IMHO to subsidize the education of students who only last a semester or two (or less). In this era of huge deficits, we need to totally overhaul the Pell Grant system so that the money goes to those students who actually succeed at getting the credential they seek.

  5. Frankly, there’s an agency problem here…

    This is a shotgun comment, as my brain went everywhere, reading some of the posts above. As for the quote above, truer words have ne’er been spoken. But there are other things going on in high school that frankly baffle me. I’ve had mediocre students getting A’s toward the end of the semester because they try hard, do extra work, come after class, get tutoring and whatnot. They do not deserve that A, if said A denotes competency in subject matter. Then, when they become seniors, they can’t write their research papers. They can’t organize their thoughts. They can’t even write a sentence.

    Moreover, their are punishments at my school for teachers that fail too many students in a year, viz., PAR or Peer Assisted Review. It’s not only a punishment, it’s a stigma as well, and a sign that admin has begun the process of getting rid of you. So that’s another factor influencing grades.

    Nevertheless, you have to maintain your standards in order to remain at peace with yourself. I had one girl a year ago for whom I wrote a recommendation to attend a summer program at Stanford. I had to be honest. So I rated her as being far below stellar. Stanford called me, and I had to tell the nice Stanford lady the truth: “She’s weak.”

    Unlike SuperSub I don’t hate my students from the get-go. (BTW that was hilarious.) I like teaching because I like adolescents. And the more the year progresses, the more I like, even love, most of my students, but I would be in violation of my own values system if I let that influence the grades they receive. On the other hand, it’s hard not to want to flunk the obnoxious, uncivil, disruptive human impersonators whose sole purpose seems to be taking up space. In fact, I love flunking them.

  6. Crimson Wife,

    What makes you think these same students would fare any better in a CTE (career technical education) or vocational track if they cannot handle the basics of reading, writing and math.

    Most vocational careers which lead to certificates or applied associate degrees (two of which I hold) require knowledge of english/math/science beyond what is learned in high school (and this was a decade ago, mind you).

    Want to get a automotive certificate fine, but is it going to be enough to pass the very difficult ASE certification exams, no…those exams are designed to separate the men from the boys, and in the powerplant and electrical areas, you’ll need a solid knowledge of algebra to get through the exams (knowing someone who actually has passed both of those ASE exams).

    IMO, I believe this nation needs a COMPLETE overhaul of it’s public education system, starting from Kindergarten and upwards, but that’s me.

    • I think some of it is a motivated issue. My brother-in-law was able to complete a AAS in mechanics. He knew what he wanted to do and was motivated to succeed. He almost failed multiple high school classes because he wasn’t motivated, didn’t want to do homework, etc.
      I would guess that if he had gone to college (or even the liberal arts division of the community college) he would have dropped out at the end of his first semester.

  7. Well, that’s a slightly different issue…A student who is unmotivated in high school MIGHT have the ability to succeed in such a program assuming he or she is willing to work their rear end off (repeating coursework which should have been mastered in high school). Students who are willing to swallow their pride and suck it up will usually have a better outcome than students who just expect a grade to be handed to them.