Students’ College Pathway Challenges Laid Bare

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Dean Welliver | South Kern Sol

Look around a typical high school classroom of about 20 students — it’s likely that just six will graduate from college.

That’s according to a new 29 page report published by the Public Policy Institute of California, which identified challenges in the pathways established for students to obtain a college degree.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Public high schools have been struggling to increase college-ready graduates. Less than half of all high school graduates in 2016 completed the full offering of college-ready classes, known as A-G courses.
  • Among students surveyed who completed college-preparatory courses in high school, roughly 30 percent were placed in remedial courses in community colleges that don’t count toward transfer credit to a four-year college or university.

California Public High Schools

California public high schools struggle to increase college-ready students because graduation requirements are incompatible with University of California and California State University admissions standards, according to the report.

Completion of the full sequence of college preparatory courses in high school is required for entrance to a four-year university and a key indicator of college success, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Despite that, just 45 percent of all high school graduates in 2016 completed those courses.

The majority of students sampled stopped taking college preparatory courses their junior and senior year, despite having successfully completed the entry-level college preparatory classes their freshman and sophomore years.

California’s high school graduation requirements, which are incompatible with the requirements set by the California State University and University of California, may contribute to students’ lack of progression through the a-g required courses, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

California requires just two years of math up to algebra I to graduate, for example, but CSU and UC require completion of algebra II and geometry.

And although most high schools offer the full sequence of college prep courses a-g requirements the full sequence of access remains an issue for schools that are small, rural, and those with few graduates who enroll in college.

In California, 10 percent of schools did not offer the full sequence of social science courses, 12 percent math courses, and 14 percent English and science courses during the 2016-17 school year, according to the report.

However, even college-ready students experience barriers in community college.

Thousands of students’ progress toward transfer is impeded by assessments that place students into remedial math and English courses, which don’t count toward graduation or transfer requirements to four year universities.

While 35 percent of students surveyed had successfully completed the college prep courses in high school, 30 percent of those students took at least one remedial course in community college.

A new state law, Assembly Bill 705, aims to reduce the number of students in remedial courses by requiring community colleges to place students into courses based on their high school performance.

The California State University System

College-ready high school students and currently enrolled students within the California State University system are also struggling to succeed in university due to the CSU systems’ lack of capacity, student performance, and lack of persistence through challenges to meet the graduation requirements.

Even when dedicated students meet the California State University’s enrollment requirements, the CSU system lacks the capacity to accept them at impacted campuses.

About 69,000 eligible Californian high school graduates and 35,000 eligible students transferring from a California Community College were turned away between 2013 and 2016, according to the report.

The CSU is developing a plan to redirect eligible students for enrollment to non-impacted campuses, however the PPIC asserts that there will not be an increase in college graduates without expanding capacity at impacted campuses.

Originally published at South Kern Sol.
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