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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College fail: Are the Covid kids ready to learn?

"(Are you ready?) Yes, I'm ready

. . . I don't even know how to hold your hand

Just to make you understand

But I'm ready (ready) to learn (to learn)."

-- Barbara Mason

Twelfth-graders applying to college this year aren't ready, writes Daniel Buck. Their education was disrupted by the pandemic and their grades so inflated they don't know what they don't know. He predicts "a coming wave of college-freshman failure" that will stress universities.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

More than 80 percent of colleges no longer applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, he writes. "Students are further behind than ever at the same time colleges lack the information that would allow them to gauge which prospective students are ready for the rigor of university and which aren’t."

Colleges will have to lower standards or let professors give F's to the unprepared, writes Buck, a former English teacher and the author of What Is Wrong with Our Schools?

The typical students "has been fed digital fentanyl by way of TikTok and Instagram," he writes. "Public schools have fed him a milquetoast education that not only fails to hone the mind, embolden the character, or stir the heart, but at times neglects even basic literacy and numeracy."

Lower standards aren't the answer, Buck argues. Students need a "professor to challenge them, a curriculum to inspire them, and an institution to treat them like adults and demand excellence." Maybe they'll turn out to be "ready to learn."

Without test scores or reliable GPAs, college admissions staffers don't know how to evaluate applicants' academic preparedness, reports Liam Knox on Inside Higher Ed.

“The academic and social skills of students applying to college have declined," says Mark Schneider, director of the Institute of Education Sciences. "We also don’t have standardized tests anymore really, and inflation makes grades pretty useless as a screening tool . . . To use the technical term, it’s a mess.”

“Students are going to be coming into college with Swiss-cheese-style holes in learning that need to be filled," says Natasha Jankowski, the former executive director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

At unselective schools that admit most applicants, it's hard to know which students need extra support, says Wayne Fletcher at California Baptist University. Fewer students are taking "student success" classes. More are falling behind in their first year.

Some high school students know they're unprepared, Knox writes. In an ACT survey released in June, many teens "said their experience with remote learning left them insecure about both their college admission prospects and their ability to succeed." A "report from EAB found that 22 percent of surveyed high school students who said they weren’t likely to attend college were hesitant because they 'are not mentally ready,' up from 14 percent in a similar study from 2019."


Craig Randall
Craig Randall
Dec 20, 2023

I have been a college adjunct since 2010 and this past semester's crop of students was quite literally the least-prepared I've seen in that stretch. Add on top of that the typical entitlement mentality of some and you've created a generation of students who are magnificently proud of being the most poorly equipped and utterly unready for post-high school study generation. Those of us on the front lines can continue to hold the line as long as we have strength. However, when the powers-that-be come for the standards, that's when I'm out. It's simply isn't worth my effort or their time and I'd be doing my students a disservice by abdicating my responsibility to hold them accountable in their academic…


Dec 14, 2023

"Colleges will have to lower standards..."

Stop! You're making me laugh so hard that stuff is coming out my nose! Colleges---Harvard for example---have been "monetizing" their degrees for decades, and "making the material more accessible" (which is totally not lowering standards, you racist!) makes that easy to do.

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