The case for college readiness

There is a new movement emphasizing the need for education after high school. In the 20th century, high schools that graduated most of their students, with about one-third obtaining a college degree, filled the needs of the workforce. That won’t work in the 21st-century global economy.

By preparing all students for college, schools are ensuring that their students are not simply graduating, but graduating to a world of options and possibilities for their future. Because the knowledge, skills, and habits necessary for success in college are essentially the same knowledge, skills, and habits necessary for success in career and life, focusing on preparing students for college is a way for schools to produce productive, contributing citizens who are living meaningful, fulfilling lives (ACT, Inc.,2006; Lippman, Atienza, Rivers, and Keith, 2008).

An economic necessity

“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite…And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training” (Obama, 2009). Obama’s request echoes what researchers have been suggesting for several years: a college education is no longer an option but an imperative.

“Education and training beyond high school is a prerequisite for employment that supports a middle-class life.” (Callan, 2008, p. 5). Harvard economists have proposed that universal access to college will be essential to keeping American workers competitive in the global information economy of the 21st century (Katz & Goldin, 2008).  Income and the risk of being unemployed are clearly tied to education.

Educaiton pays

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey

Other Benefits of a College Degree

Earning a college degree offers a variety of benefits to individuals, their families, and society as a whole. While economic benefit is widely cited as the major rationale for obtaining a college education, other benefits exist that cannot be ignored.  A study conducted by The Institute for Higher Education Policy (1998) found that the benefits of higher education include:

Minnesota perspective

In Minnesota, about 70% of high school graduates attend a postsecondary institution the following fall, but many do not graduate (Minnesota Office of Higher Education, 2010).  Their lack of readiness is likely a significant cause.  For example:

Percentage of Minnesotans not ready for college

Percent of Minnesota high school students taking the ACT in 2009 whose composite scores from the English, Math, Science, and Reading portions of the test indicate that they are not likely to be successful in first-year college coursework. Adapted from “ACT Profile Report, Graduating Class 2009, Minnesota” by The ACT.