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More Choice = More College Degrees

Today at the Govs’ summer meeting — an annual event of all US Governors — Ed Secretary Arne Duncan shared new data indicating that America continues to lose ground internationally when it comes to producing college graduates. College attainment rates have risen nominally (1/2 percentage point), but America still lags far behind on the world stage. Once number one, we have fallen to a disconcerting 16th in the world.

It’s just one more indication that America’s kids are not receiving the same level of education as their peers in other countries. We’ve hit a glass ceiling of education that others have broken through.

Duncan says that affordability is the culprit, and anyone paying (or trying to pay) for college today knows that’s a huge issue. But cost containment isn’t the main reason our kids don’t graduate once there. There are many low cost options. The biggest obstacle to obtaining a college degree isn’t that students can’t afford it, it’s that they aren’t equipped to earn it. Once they are in college — be it a community college, four year liberal arts school or technical school — our kids don’t finish! And the reason for that starts long before, when our kid are advanced through their primary years without being proficient, year after year. More than three quarters of all higher ed institutions must remediate large numbers of freshman. And we wonder why they can’t complete work or are deterred by the potential of even going?

So let’s try something else. Let’s expand educational options and encourage more innovation. Let’s give parents the power to choose the best school for their child, and then have the money slated for that child’s education follow them to their new school. College attainment requires secondary attainment. Ensuring our kids are proficient in the early grades bolsters their success in college, success in life. More learning opportunities of every sort are proving themselves capable of sending kids to college in droves. So want more college degrees? Try choice, first.


  1. I agree that a major reason for the drop in college degrees is due to poor secondary education. I am a recent college graduate and I have to say that a lot of what I was expected to know entering into college I was not familiar with. I went to a rural public school and I could see the difference from those who went to larger schools or private schools and myself. I think it is important for parents to find ways to make sure their child is receiving the best education they can growing up so that they can do well in college. I know that I am one of very few from my class who actually completed a four year degree after high school. Of course other factors attribute to why students do not obtain degrees but poor secondary education is a main factor considering that if students are not taught basic principals how then can they build upon them in college.

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