• April 17, 2014

Colleges Must Help Prepare Students for Higher Education, Report Says

If colleges want more of their students to be ready for the academic challenges of higher education, then those institutions have to take a more direct role in elementary and secondary education, recommends a new report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The report, written by a dozen college presidents and released here at the association's annual meeting, calls on its member campuses to begin preparing students as early as preschool, helping children to acquire the building blocks of a successful academic career. And to have the greatest impact, the report says, colleges should focus on areas with high concentrations of poverty, where children have the greatest disadvantages in academic preparation.

"Education is like a pyramid: Each level rests on what came before," says the report. "Any weakness in a child's educational development jeopardizes all that follows, and gains made at an early age continue to benefit the child in future years."

Specifically, the report recommends four approaches that every member campus should be involved in: improving teacher-preparation programs, increasing the availability of dual-credit classes, aligning elementary and secondary curricula with college expectations, and giving high schools reports on how their graduates are performing in college.

While college readiness has been a topic in higher-education circles for some time, the new report calls for more direct involvement in the development of prospective students, said James C. Votruba, president emeritus of Northern Kentucky University and co-chairman of the panel that wrote the report. In addition, said Mr. Votruba, the call to be engaged with elementary schools goes much further than most college-readiness programs, which generally focus on the last two years of high school.

Mr. Votruba also said that college presidents would have to become strong advocates for the proposals in order to overcome resistance from faculty members. "Our institutions are not going to be drawn to this work naturally," he said.

The call for more engagement on college preparation is in line with two other efforts of the association. Most recently, its members joined with those in the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in a pledge to increase the number of baccalaureate-degree holders by 3.8 million by 2025. The association of state colleges is also involved in developing and putting in place a common set of learning goals for schoolchildren, called the Common Core State Standards.

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