top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

College-going is down, and that could be a good thing

The U.S. could close the college readiness gap -- if the college-going rate keeps falling, writes Fordham's Michael Petrilli. Of course, that only works if it's the unprepared, unmotivated young people who opt out, but not those with a decent chance of success.


"Higher education usually pays off — but only for students that exit college with degrees or other valuable credentials," writes Petrilli. Those who try and fail end up with "debt and regret."


"College for all" is over. Wary of high college costs and high dropout rates, more high school graduates have noticed the "strong labor market for less-educated workers," the Wall Street Journal reported in May.


For decades, there's been a big gap between the percentage of 12th-graders who are college ready, as judged by those who reached the National Assessment’s “college-prepared” level in reading, and the percentage who give it a go, Petrilli notes. Here's his chart:


For the high school class of 2013, for example, 38 percent were college-ready in reading, 66 enrolled in college and 39 percent completed a four-year degree, Petrilli writes. "Almost a million students every year have been heading to postsecondary education even though they weren’t college ready." No wonder they can't pay back their student loans.


Degree completion is way up over time, he notes. College readiness is not. "Starting with the high school class of 2011, we see the college-completion rate nudging ahead of the college readiness rate." So, some students with weak reading skills still managed to complete four-year degrees.


Have colleges figured out how to help the unprepared succeed -- or have they just lowered standards? (I'm fairly sure it's lower standards.)


Post-pandemic students have weaker reading, writing and math skills -- and seem to have trouble with motivation and work habits as well. "The gap between our most recent college-matriculation rate (62 percent) and our most recent college readiness rate (37 percent) is a whopping 25 points," Petrilli writes.


He hopes for a “college for all students who are ready to succeed in it” movement. And, of course, high schools need to do a much better job of preparing students to learn job skills.

2,180 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All

5 Comments


Guest
Aug 03, 2023

Trust me, after 20+ years teaching at a mid-level state University where just about all applicants were accepted, several things have happened since 2010. 1) Lots of non-graduating credit course (which still cost as much as credit courses) have exploded as an attempt to bring students up to speed on doing college level work. 2) Much more 1-on-1 type 'help' (frequently from paid upper-level undergrads or grad students) has been offered. 3) No one ever "flunks out" any longer. As long as a student continues to pay they're allowed to stay, no matter how bad their grades are. Even all F. (We are quite strongly discouraged from 'giving' grades of F even to no-show students who turn in no work.…

Like

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Aug 03, 2023

The USA should adapt the college education that is required for university admission in Quebec, thus establishing a useful gateway stage for those with the appropriate aptitudes; for those whose strengths lie elsewhere, which is most of any given year's birth cohort, they would be better off arranging apprenticeships, with a bit of upper secondary schooling as is necessary to prepare such youth for successful adult citizenship.

Like
Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Aug 04, 2023
Replying to

Quite correct, Joanne: qualified students typically choose the former, while I think the vocationally oriented are best off as in Switzerland, where most youth try for apprenticeships that take up around 70 per cent of their time over three years, with the rest in the reduced secondary schools to which I referred.

Like

Guest
Aug 02, 2023
"strong labor market for less-educated workers,"

Less-credentialed, not "less educated". The lie beneath the schooling scam is that schooling equals education. Schooling from top to bottom is about getting good grades not real learning. It is about keeping the student busy so they don't have time to stop and think. Educated is a state you achieve by developing discipline of intellect, regulation of emotions and establishment of principles.


Granted the college credential is a "signal" and also a check off on the HR gatekeeper's spreadsheet. But more and more of those who would be successful on merit will skip college and the debilitating debt it entails. The college credential is of value to those destined for a desk in…

Like
bottom of page