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Students Want More Rigor in High School to Be College-Ready

A new survey of students taken one year after they graduated from high school shows that most highly value college, but wish they were better prepared for it. Looking back, students say they regret not taking more math, science, and writing-intensive coursework in high school.

One Year Out, a survey released today by the College Board on college readiness and affordability asked members of the class of 2010 how their high school experience prepared them for work and college. In addition to taking harder classes, 47 percent wished they worked harder in high school, and 37 percent said the requirements for graduating from high school should be more difficult.

The survey found that one year after high school, 86 percent of graduates felt that a college degree is worth the time and money, including a large majority not currently enrolled in college (76 percent). When asked if they agreed with the statement: "In today's world, high school is not enough, and nearly everybody needs to complete some kind of education or training after high school," 90 percent of graduates agreed.

Money was clearly the biggest barrier to college facing students. More than half (55 percent) who attended college said that affording it was "very challenging" or "pretty challenging." For those who didn't go, cost kept 56 percent from attending the poll found. Another 62 percent said they wanted to take time off before going to college, and 40 percent were not sure they were prepared for college-level work.

Those who went on to college found the courses were more difficult than expected (54 percent), and 24 percent were required to take noncredit remedial or developmental courses. Of those taking remedial programs, 37 percent attended a two-year college and 16 percent did not make it through the first year of college.

To succeed, 44 percent of graduates said they wished they had taken different classes in high school. Among those, 40 percent wished they had taken more math, 37 percent wished they would have taken more classes that prepared them for a specific job, and 33 percent wished they had taken more science courses. Others thought they would have benefited from more practical career readiness and basic preparation for how to engage in a college environment, including how to manage personal finances, the College Board survey reveals.

The nationwide survey of 1,507 respondents, all of whom graduated from high school in 2010, was conducted by phone and online in July and August by Hart Research Associates.

(For another take on the results, see Catherine Gewertz' blog, Curriculum Matters.)

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