Tuesday, May 30, 2006

No high school degree? Go to college anyway

Edumacation: I got a bad feeling about this.

It is a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland idea. If you do not finish high school, head straight for college. But many colleges — public and private, two-year and four-year — will accept students who have not graduated from high school or earned equivalency degrees. And in an era of stubbornly elevated high school dropout rates, the chance to enter college through the back door is attracting growing interest among students without high school diplomas. That growth is fueling a debate over whether the students should be in college at all and whether state financial aid should pay their way. In New York, the issue flared in a budget battle this spring. ...The existence of such students — eager, yet at high risk for failure — exposes a split in education policy. On one hand, believers in the standards movement frown on social promotion and emphasize measurable performance in high school. At the same time, because a college degree is widely considered essential to later success, some educators say even students who could not complete high school should be allowed to attend college. Nowhere is this contradiction more evident than in California. This year, 47,000 high school seniors, about 10 percent of the class, have not passed the exit examinations required to graduate from high school. They can still enroll in many colleges, although they are no longer eligible for state tuition grants. State Senator Deborah Ortiz, Democrat of Sacramento, has proposed legislation to change that. "As long as the opportunity to go to college exists for students without a diploma," Ms. Ortiz said, "qualifying students from poor or low-income families should remain entitled to college financial aid." Many community colleges and two-year commercial colleges take these students, as do some less selective four-year colleges. At Interboro Institute, a large commercial college in Manhattan, 94 percent of the students last year did not have a high school diploma. Yet most received federal and state financial aid, up to $9,000 a student for the neediest.
There is the money 'graph. I get the idea these students are taken to get the money more than trying to make a trend. If they fail, there is a pool of willing students out there to take their place. I am not saying anyone who hasn't finished high school could not make it in a college, but its not the desired route to shoot for these days. Politicians and educators should not encourage this type of thinking.

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