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Editorial columns

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Editorials

College road map

Readiness report points out state’s vulnerabilities

The latest report on Indiana high school graduates’ college preparedness advises that no education sector is solely responsible for problems in higher education attainment and “none can solve the problem alone.”

It’s wise counsel from the Commission for Higher Education. Blaming secondary schools ignores the roles of parents and the students themselves. It ignores the colleges and universities, which continue to admit unprepared students and accept their tuition dollars for remedial classes. Most important, it ignores the state policymakers who fail to address poverty, to give schools the resources they need or to give Indiana students the early-learning experiences their counterparts enjoy in other states.

The commission’s College Readiness Reports, released last week, find some good news in a slightly higher percentage of graduates entering college in 2012 than in 2011. Given the improvements in the economy, it appears that Hoosiers might finally be recognizing the value of higher education.

It’s clearly important: The unemployment rate for graduates of four-year colleges between the ages of 25 and 34 was 3.3 percent in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was 11.8 percent for high school graduates in the same age group.

Indiana still lags the nation in educational attainment – just 33.8 percent of its residents held at least an associate degree in 2011, compared with 38.7 percent of all U.S. adults.

The commission’s effort to look for ways to bolster college success is a good one, but Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel is right when he suggests the report attempts to simplify a very complex issue.

The findings, for example, do not give a complete picture of Indiana high school graduates, particularly on remediation. The study looks at the performance of only the students who attend Ivy Tech or a public university in Indiana, while nearly a quarter of the college-bound students went to a private school in Indiana or a public or private school out of state. That would include students who matriculated at selective schools like the University of Notre Dame, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology or any out-of-state Ivy League school, where remedial classes aren’t even offered.

The report’s warning that remedial courses cost taxpayers $78 million shouldn’t be accepted as an indictment on Indiana K-12 schools. They are increasingly hampered by diminishing financial support and increasing poverty rates. Instead, the warning should be a challenge to state policymakers to create a better foundation for learning and school success, beginning with efforts to support young parents and provide high-quality preschool and continuing with adequate support for schools.

Taken as a whole, the college readiness report is a valuable tool for helping students and the state overall.

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