By Joe Guzzardi
March 21, 2012
When I tell my out of state friends that 60 percent of enrolling freshman in the California State University system require remedial courses in math and reading, they think I’m joking. Only by drawing on my personal 25-year California public high school teaching career can I convince them that the surprise is that the percentage needing tutoring isn’t larger. A staggering number of students with high school diplomas can’t do long division.
After years of failed attempts to bring deficient students up to standards once they enrolled, CSU developed a revised plan called “Early Start”. Students take the necessary course work before beginning classes for credit in September. Remediation can be satisfied over the summer or online.
CSU stopped offering on campus remedial programs for reasons familiar to Californians: at an annual cost of $30 million statewide, they’re too expensive.
What makes the unprepared student’s story sadder is that many of those who need remedial assistance have high school GPAs above 3.0 which they earned in a college preparatory curriculum. Who’s to say what any given school district’s educational standards may be? With 6.2 million students speaking hundreds of languages representing dozens of nationalities in California’s 10,000 K-12 schools, there’re too many variables to arrive at a consensus about what a 3.0 GPA really represents.
After decades of ballooning population growth that forced higher enrollments in K-12 schools, it’s not surprising that teachers can’t adequately educate all their pupils. Yet, even though they’re unprepared for college level work, California colleges accept them. In a typical year, Cal State’s campuses receive 70,000 spring applications and 16,000 students enroll.
As the state’s deficits have deepened in recent years, universities are feeling the pinch. This week, facing uncertain budget prospects and not knowing the November outcome of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed November tax initiative, CSU officials announced that it would freeze enrollment next spring at most campuses and would wait-list all applicants. During 2011-2012, the university has sustained $750 million in funding cuts and will face another cut of at least $200 million in the next academic year if Brown’s proposal fails.
The solution is two-fold. First, a high school diploma isn’t a barometer for college admission. With grade inflation rampant, a 3.0 may be the equivalent of a C- And if the inflated grades were earned at an under-performing high school, they’re meaningless. High school graduates who aspire to college should be made to take a General Education Development test. Passing a GED represents more valid proof than a diploma that the student can understand written passages, do fundamental math and write a coherent short essay. Those who can’t pass should consider trade schools and not waste their time and taxpayers money by going to college.
Second, instead of lobbying for higher taxes or more rigid academic standards, politicians should come to grips with the reality of excessive population growth. Although legally required to educate every school age immigrant, California just can’t do it. Each arrival creates an additional burden on a state already spread too thin.
Reducing immigration represents a permanent solution to many of California’s social ailments including, at the top of the list, education. Going further into debt in an attempt to get college degrees for students who can barely read or write is the height of folly.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His editorials are nationally syndicated. Contact him at [email protected]