September 15, 2011
Urquhart: Colleges need better prepared students
(David DeMille, The Spectrum) — Utah Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is considering a plan that would set academic requirements for graduating high school students in order to earn college admission.
While some state schools already have admissions requirements, most — including Dixie State College — have an open enrollment system where anyone is allowed to register for classes. As a result, many students come into school unprepared, end up needing remedial classes to catch up, and for the most part end of dropping out before they finish, Urquhart said.
“This is a huge cost to taxpayers right now,” Urquhart said, pointing out that nearly twothirds of Utah’s college students fail to graduate. “I’d like to see if we can put that burden on them a little earlier, where they have to show they’re prepared.”
In addition, many college graduates are finding it difficult to get a job even with their degrees, indicating a move toward more job skills and technical training may be more appropriate for some of the students who now head to a four-year college, Urquhart contends.
“We need to be thinking a lot more about the marketplace than we are right now,” he said, adding that the new rule should apply only to incoming high school graduates. Nontraditional students returning to school would not be included.
It is not a new issue. David Buhler, associate commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, said there is always a balancing act between wanting students who are prepared and successful in college, while still meeting the ethical expectation of offering educational opportunities to everyone.
“There’s a tension there, obviously,” he said. “We don’t want to have a lot of people who aren’t ready and who aren’t able to succeed. The trick is figuring out where to draw the line.”
There have been increased efforts in recent years to bridge that gap, Buhler said, pointing out the Regents’ Scholarship, offered to Utah high school students who take more difficult classes, and some individualized programs at state schools where incoming students are offered different class options depending on their abilities. More…Posted by: psilberman