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College readiness declining among high school students

College readiness is a major factor in the decision to attend or not attend college. At the beginning of this school year, about 75% of high school students indicated that they were not prepared for college, or even to decide their next steps after high school. About a month ago, the ACT released test results that show that perception is mostly correct. According to the current crop of ACT scores, only about 20% of high school students have what they need to enter college.

For high school students who know – or at least think – they want to go to college, having a pathway that ensures college readiness is important. Community colleges can play a role in supporting students who want to go to college, even if these students don’t end up going to a community college.

College readiness courses designed especially for high school-age students can help them overcome or avoid deficiencies in math, science, language, and critical thinking skills. And although standardized college entrance exams are less important now than they have been, the tests still measure college readiness among high school students.

A college readiness program could also be an opportunity for Michigan’s four-year universities and its community colleges to work together to erase deficits among Michigan high school students. Increased admission rates for Michigan students could be one potential benefit of these college readiness courses.

If increasing the number of high school students who enroll in post-secondary programs immediately after graduation is important, then Michigan’s community colleges and universities need to come together to create opportunities for high school students to recover the ground they’ve lost in terms of academics.

Opportunity to improve college readiness

Although Michigan’s four-year universities stand to reap more gains from this approach, community colleges should not lose the immediate opportunity to increase their enrollment. Most community colleges have signed on to dual-enrollment programs, so the ability to teach high school students is already in place.

Unlike dual-enrollment courses, these readiness courses would not be college-level courses. If anything, they would be much like the remediation courses that so many community colleges are turning away from. They could enable college-bound students to assess and close the gap between what they have already mastered and what they still need to acquire.

While remediation may not be an effective strategy for college-age students, it can be a game-changer for high school students who have missed out on instruction. The courses could be offered in a variety of formats – in-person, self-paced, online, hybrid – whatever works to help students regain their grade-level academic progress.

It is one more way community colleges could serve their own communities.

Photo Credit: Gresham Barlow School District , via Flickr