2.2 million freshmen started college in the United States last fall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if common trends are anything go by, more than a third of them will not have a diploma at the end of it, if indeed, they finish college at all, writes Jenna Ashley Robinson at the Pope Center.
The ACT and the College Board (which administers the SAT) have created benchmarks that offer very clear guidelines for determining whether students are likely to succeed in college have found that fewer than half of college-bound seniors are prepared for the work ahead of them.
ACT's College Readiness Benchmarks are found in its 2005 study "Crisis at the Core: Preparing All Students for College and Work" identified signs of achievement in high school that give students "a high probability of success in such credit-bearing college courses as English Composition, Algebra, and Biology."
ACT defines success as a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or better and a 50 percent chance of earning a B or better. But using these benchmarks, only 22 percent of students who took the test in 2003-2004 were ready across all three subjects.
"Sixty-eight percent were ready for English composition; forty percent were ready for algebra; but just 26 percent were ready for biology."
The College Board's findings are similar, and more recent. A 2010 report, "The Development of a Multidimensional College Readiness Index," defines college readiness as "having at least a 65 percent probability of obtaining a B- (or 2.67) or higher first year grade point average (GPA)."
And using the College Board's three-test benchmark, only 31.9 percent of SAT-tested 2009 high school graduates were deemed "college-ready."
"Twenty-three percent of test-takers met none of the three benchmarks."
For the year 2011, the record is even worse. Over half the students who took the SAT in 2011 are not prepared for college-level work.
But despite it being well-documented that many students are not prepared for college-level material, unprepared high school graduates are still being accepted to enroll in colleges and universities every year.
"Universities must change their focus from access to achievement by raising admissions standards to meaningful levels and stopping the debasement of the curriculum and grading standards," says Robinson.
"Sending unprepared students to college only sets them up for failure."