The College Readiness Gap

College Readiness Gap Goes Beyond Academic Unpreparedness

Fulcrum Labs
138 posts

According to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE), there is a significant gap between those who are eligible for college and those who are actually prepared for postsecondary studies.

In fact, the NCPPHE reports that 60% of first-year students are not ready for college.

Much has been made of the college readiness gap in recent years. Largely viewed as a result of academic unpreparedness, colleges have created rigorous remedial programs designed to close the gap and improve student retention and success. However, these programs often place a significant financial burden on students without delivering long-term results:

  • The annual cost of remedial coursework totals around $1.5 billion nationwide
  • Research shows that only 17% of students who enroll in remedial classes will graduate

Institutions also feel the strain of remedial programs. For example, college academic advisors are overwhelmed with students trying to navigate the maze of remedial courses and stay on track for graduation. With more students requiring academic advising, student support services (including academic advising) now comprise nearly one-third of professional jobs on campuses. This equates to millions of dollars in college resources being directed to academic advising.

It’s clear these programs aren’t working well, but why? A recent article suggests that factors outside of academics also contribute to freshman unpreparedness. According to a new study, millennial students entering college demonstrate significant gaps in basic life skills, like time management, budgeting and independent study. These skills are necessary to effectively navigate the world of college, and without them, students exhibit lower levels of confidence, increased anxiety disorders and higher drop out rates. While colleges and universities have curricula in place to address many of the academic gaps of entering freshman, they often don’t have any programs that instruct students on the life skills necessary for a successful college experience.

In the rare instances where students do have access to life skills courses, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in student success. In fact, our college success course, Steps To Success, which is designed to teach college fundamentals, has been incredibly effective at providing college students with confident mastery of the soft skills they need to perform well in the college environment.

While academic unpreparedness is the lion’s share of the college readiness gap, other factors clearly play a role in preparing students for college success. Institutions, parents and students should look more closely at the soft skills necessary for college attainment, and consider how to address those for a more holistic approach to college prep.

For more information about our College Success program, or how we work with higher education institutions.