Officials: Few high school grads ready for college

Tessa Duvall

Most high school graduates aren’t prepared for the demands of college, according to data released last month by the Kentucky Department of Education.

Across the state, only 34 percent of high school graduates are prepared for college or to start a career, according to the data. Locally, numbers aren’t much higher than that.

There are 4,324 students from Warren County at WKU, the most of any county, according to the WKU Factbook.

Warren County Public Schools have an overall college and career readiness of 36 percent, and Bowling Green Independent Schools are at 45 percent readiness, according to the KDE data.

“It’s a huge concern,” President Gary Ransdell said of the overall numbers.

WKU is directing its efforts at helping public schools reshape their curriculum, especially in the senior year of high school, he said.

In March 2009, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 1, which aims to increase the rigor of primary through grade 12 education in order to increase the number of students who are ready for college.

Sharon Hunter, coordinator of college readiness, said the legislation defined college readiness by ACT scores of at least an 18 in English, 19 in math and 20 in reading.

According to the legislation, the Department of Education will collaborate with the Council on Postsecondary Education to reduce college remediation rates.

WKU has worked with the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative to help prepare local high school students for college, Hunter said.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

A total of 2,480 students at 17 high schools took the WKU math placement exam, Hunter said. If students don’t test as being college ready, then they go through an intervention program that varies by school.

Intervention programs include tutoring sessions, using a math computer program outside of class and taking math from a local community college, she said.

When students were retested later in the year, college readiness improved from 8 to 51 percent, she said.

Hunter said they hope to expand the number of high school juniors tested to 8,000.

At WKU, when students take developmental classes, a hold can be placed on their account to prevent them from dropping the necessary class, she said.

“It isn’t that the students have changed,” Hunter said. “It’s that now we’re really focusing on if the students are really ready.”

As WKU continues to raise admission standards, Ransdell said he doesn’t think the university’s growth with be affected by low college readiness.

“I don’t worry about rising admission standards,” he said.

He said he does worry about retention rates.

By the end of their first year of college, 30 percent of freshmen don’t return, Ransdell said.

In order to keep enrollment stable, WKU must continue to improve retention rates, he said.