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New Study Provides Recommendations to Remove College Barriers

SAN JOSE, Calif.

States are pushing colleges, universities, and K-12 schools to work together, but many state policies work at odds with the reforms needed to improve students’ college readiness and success, according to a new study. At a time when the nation must have citizens who have achieved educational success beyond high school, the need for improved transitions from high school to college is urgent.

These are among the findings of “The Governance Divide: A Report on a Four-State Study on Improving College Readiness and Success,” released jointly by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research and the Institute for Educational Leadership.

The report identifies four areas in which states can work to improve the transition from high school to college:

  • Alignment of Courses and Assessments. States need to make sure that what students are asked to know and do in high school is connected to postsecondary expectations. Currently, students in most states graduate from high school under one set of standards and face a disconnected and different set of expectations in college. Many students enter college unable to perform college-level work.
  • Finance. State need-based financial aid policy should be linked with student preparation for college and state budgeting policy should support collaboration between schools and colleges.
  • Accountability. States need to connect their accountability systems for K-12 and postsecondary education. Currently, accountability systems are usually designed for either K-12 or postsecondary education without much attention to the interface between the two.
  • Data Systems. States must provide better information about education for policymakers and the public, including information about high school students’ preparation for college-level work. These data systems should diagnose problems, provide information about all education levels, assess achievement, and track individual students over time across schools and colleges and universities.

Andrea Venezia, senior policy analyst at the National Center and co-author of the report states, “This study outlines concrete policy changes states can put into place, and stresses the importance of both systems working together. We believe it will help states take that next step and change the policies that drive their education systems.”

However, the report says remediation rates are disturbingly high — approximately 50% nationally — and too few complete their college programs. Out of 100 ninth graders who graduate from high school and immediately enter college, only 27 are still enrolled their sophomore year.

The need to improve the transition from high school to college is crucial now, given our global, knowledge-based economy. Students who aspire to participate in the middle-class must complete at least some education or training beyond high school. And according to Patrick Callan, president of the National Center and co-author of the report, this need extends far beyond individual aspirations. “To compete in the global economy, businesses and communities-and our nation as a whole-must have a college-educated populace,” he says. “We must make sure our education systems better suit students’ needs and aspirations-and our country’s needs.”

In addition to its recommendations, the report provides an overview of public education governance and K-16 reform in Florida, Georgia, New York, and Oregon. For more information, and for copies of the report, go to

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