Making college prep a priority

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

I hope the issue on college access and success (Focus on a Broken Pipeline to College, Summer 2012) motivates high school and college staff to ramp up efforts to prepare high school students for college and ensure that colleges provide needed support to earn a degree.

Unfortunately, since there are lax standards for achieving the 23.5 credits needed for graduation, too many students earn a diploma that is little more than a ticket to remedial college courses, making them the least likely to earn a degree. Our graduation rate is 61 percent, yet only 36 percent of 11th graders scored advanced or proficient this year on the math PSSA and only 43 percent were proficient or better in English. We need rigorous promotion and graduation standards with the proper supports to ensure that students are ready for college.

There has been little emphasis on improving college supports, especially for first-generation collegians who may likely find college to be an alien environment. High school counselors should direct students to affordable colleges and universities with high graduation rates.

Colleges should publish their graduation rates to inform decision-making and increase institutional accountability, and they should make tuition affordable. Defaulting on a student loan leads to bad credit, which makes it difficult for students to get a job or rent an apartment. We should not let our students take on the risk of drowning in debt, which has become the experience for far too many.

– Debra Weiner
The writer has been an education advocate, analyst, activist, and consultant since the early 1970s.