Slowly, Ohio’s public colleges and universities are raising the expectations bar, spelling out more precisely the minimum preparation they require for incoming students. This week, the college presidents unveiled a uniform set of standards to serve as a measure of the ability of freshmen to handle postsecondary coursework. The step is a critical part of a sharper focus on performance and accountability in higher education.
If anything has become clear in recent decades, it is that personal and public investments in postsecondary education are crucial to drive economic growth in the state. With estimates that nearly 80 percent of current and future jobs require some level of postsecondary education or training, Ohio is pushing to increase college completion, and enrollment has risen.
The troubling truth is that many students are not well enough prepared to complete college programs without extensive additional academic help, 41 percent of Ohio freshmen requiring remedial classes before they can tackle coursework for academic credit. Besides the financial expense (in 2010, Ohio spent $146 million on such courses, on top of the cost of secondary education), studies show students who begin with remedial classes generally take longer, and are less likely, to complete their program.
With tuition and student debt soaring, being ill-prepared amounts to waste in money and time, for the student as much as for the institution and the state. It is for good reason Ohio is phasing out state funding for remediation in all but three of its four-year institutions by 2020, challenging the schools to better define and assess “college ready.”
In response, the college presidents have decided, and the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio school superintendent have agreed, to use as the measure of ability scores on the ACT (18 in English, 21 in reading, 22 in math) and SAT (430 in writing, 450 in reading, 520 in math). Students who meet the standards will not require remedial courses. Unfortunately, these required scores fall somewhat below the average scores recorded in Ohio in 2012 on the national college admissions tests. The hope is that the initial standards will be raised as Ohio introduces the more rigorous national Core Curriculum for elementary and secondary schools.