How to Make College as Bad as High School

While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “co-requisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college-level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

That essentially erases the boundary between high school and college, and not in the good way being undertaken by sundry “early college” and “Advanced Placement” courses, the purpose of which is to bring college-level work into high schools. Now we’re seeing high-school-level work being brought into college, there to count for credit toward bachelor’s degrees.

This will surely cause an upward tick in college completions and degrees conferred (much as credit recovery has done for high school diplomas) but it will also devalue those degrees and cause any employer seeking evidence of true proficiency to look for other indicators. In the end, it will put pressure on many more people to earn post-graduate degrees and other kinds of credentials, thus adding to the length of time spent preparing for the “real world” and adding to the costs—whether born by students, families, or taxpayers—of that preparation.

All this is, of course, a consequence of misguided notions of equity and opportunity. But what it really does is perpetuate the illusion of success in the absence of true achievement and weaken all versions of academic standards at the very moment most states have been taking steps to strengthen them.


7 thoughts on “How to Make College as Bad as High School

  1. High school is dumbed down, college is priced up. It’s clear higher education is going the way of corporatized profiteering. The goal is less about making educated scholars and more about getting them to follow the rules, play your game, and make them pay along the way.

  2. My solution has always been to consider major and class rank (if available) or just grades if not.

    I don’t bother with applicants who take puff-course majors. I like people to be well rounded, but nothing beats a STEM oriented person in college. They’re willing to take on challenging material and spend the extra time in the labs. Pre med qualifies as well. I have a large team of business strategy and M&A people. Entry level positions pay well into six figures to give some context.

    I’ve also found that the Ivy League diploma is no longer a reliable indicator of quality. Used to be, but in the last 5 years I’ve been more inclined to hire students from strong state schools and for some reason Canadian. Universities.

    Hard to say why, but these women and men seem to have more grit, less attitude, and work harder. They do better, probably because they were not constantly told they’re awesome when they do B work.

  3. Not incidentally, more college years will make more work, more money, and more power for professors, administrators, and other college and university staff. They are unlikely to weep.

  4. Obama’s “Race To the Top” initiative *requires* this. When states signed on to RTTT, which they did in the search of money, they agreed that every student who graduated from a Common Core school, would not be placed in remedial ed in college, but must go straight to credit-bearing classes.

    So, either colleges have to dumb down credit-bearing classes or eliminate them as graduation requirement.

  5. No, all of this is to try to keep the gravy train going by encouraging more suckers to enroll at these farcical institutions.

    It’s never been about equality and access at these places, it’s always been about self-proclaimed “socialists” getting a sizeable paycheck.

  6. Ain’t it the truth! I have a 1908 Hollywood High School English textbook that mentions Ralph Roster Doyster. You’d have to go to the PHD level today to find that being covered, and only in select few places.

  7. This is being driven by the 4-year graduation rate stat — if you don’t have remedial courses counting for credit, kids can’t graduate in 4 years.

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