NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

High School Graduates Ill-Prepared for College

October 23, 2003

Around the country, many students with stellar high school records have discovered that they don't have all the skills to survive in college. In Georgia, for instance, four out of 10 students who earn the popular Hope Scholarships to the state's university system lose the scholarship after they earn about 30 credits -- roughly a year's worth of work -- because they can't keep their grades up.

Performances on college admissions tests point to possible grade inflation:

  • Fifteen years ago, students with A averages accounted for 28 percent of SAT test takers.
  • Today, 42 percent of college-bound seniors have A averages, but they score no better on the college admissions tests than did A students a decade earlier.
  • Only 1 in 3 18-year-olds is even minimally prepared for college, according to a report by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based think tank.
  • The picture is even bleaker for minorities: Only 20 percent of black students in the class of 2001 were college-ready.

Researchers say that when it comes to college success, what students study in high school is as important as their study skills.

Those who study math for four years in high school, taking classes such as trigonometry and calculus that are harder than second-year algebra, double their chances of earning a bachelor's degree, says Clifford Adelman, a U.S. Department of Education researcher who has examined thousands of high school and college transcripts.

Source: Fredreka Schouten, "Grade inflation takes a toll on students: Many need remedial courses in college," Gannett News Service, USA Today, October 21, 2003.


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