Phi Beta Cons

Low Admissions Standards Harm Students and Taxpayers

Lackluster economic conditions are difficult enough for those who graduate college and find themselves underemployed or living in their parents’ basement. For those who attend college and then drop-out, however, things are even more difficult, especially if they’ve accumulated student debt. But while the social costs of such college non-completion can be high, the taxpayer burden is especially jaw-dropping. Stephanie Keaveney, in today’s Pope Center feature, analyzes a recent report showing that the public spends $12 billion each year on students who eventually drop-out.

Keaveney says that providing prospective students with more information about college costs, well-paying majors, etc., is crucial. The more students know, the better their decision-making will be. But colleges themselves have a big role to play. They should stop accepting students whom they know are not ready for the rigors of college coursework. A few years ago, the College Board, which produces the SAT, said that in order for a student to perform well in college (which they identified as a “B-” GPA or higher), he or she needs to score at least a 1030.

Many schools admit students below that threshold. Meanwhile, policymakers seem to believe that college is the only path to the American Dream, and that it’s somehow public-spirited to “help” academically weak students get into college, despite the strong likelihood that they won’t succeed. “State lawmakers must create more pressure for schools to improve completion rates. As elected officials entrusted with taxpayers’ money, they must question why so many schools admit underprepared students,” writes Keaveney.

Jesse Saffron — Jesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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