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How to Devalue a College Degree

The decision by the chancellor of the California State College system to eliminate placement exams and remedial classes for freshmen is a transparent attempt to make the colleges look good by increasing graduation rates ("Cal State will no longer require placement exams and remedial classes for freshmen," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3).  But all it will do in the final analysis is to devalue whatever worth a degree from the system's 23 campuses once had.

When 40 percent of freshmen are required to take remedial courses, perhaps they are not college material in the first place. We can't put the entire blame on their high school teachers.  Students have to take some responsibility for themselves. Abolishing remedial courses will fool no one.  What the chancellor has unwittingly done is to degrade the reputation of the entire system.  All stakeholders will be negatively affected.  The fact is that he is commiting academic fraud.  College is not for everyone.  But this axiom is regularly dismissed as elitist. 

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next step is to guarantee that all students once admitted are given automatic A's.  After all, we wouldn't want to hurt their self-esteem. Doing so would also provide the illusion that the colleges are doing an outstanding instructional job.  I question that assumption as well.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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