By Nancy Zimpher
The current national dialogue around greater access to higher education is encouraging, but zeroing in on it leaves us dangerously close to overlooking the full spectrum of challenges facing today’s students. By limiting national debate to the financial barriers that prevent students from earning a college degree, presidential candidates ignore the larger problem: we are an undereducated nation. Too many of today’s students are unprepared to succeed in college and, worse, in life and work after they graduate.
Free college accomplishes very little if students continue to arrive on our campuses unprepared. Right now, half of all community college students enroll in at least one remedial course. Far more often than not, students who aren’t ready for college-level course work when they start, don’t finish. They leave college with debt and no degree to show for it.
We know this trajectory begins long before students reach college, and yet we neglect to tackle the problem at its source. We — all of us in education — have to reach out to these kids earlier. Despite a clear need for K-12 schools and higher education institutions to work together as one complete system of education, we still operate and receive funds as two separate and distinct entities. And effective systems don’t operate in silos.
Presidential hopefuls should consider a plan that will incentivize K-12 and higher education to get our acts together — ideally, through a funding model that binds our sectors and ensures investment only in what works. To be truly effective, we should target support to data-driven, evidence-based programs and services that we know not only increase access to college but also boost completion — and ultimately lead to career success. CONTINUE READING HERE