College Dropouts: No Surprise

Many high school grads are unprepared for college or careers

Please check the 5-page PDF. It explains the problem and offers a solution. .


The Big Idea

California public schools were the gold standard. Starting in the 1950s a massive increase in school construction met the needs of the post-WW II Baby Boom. Prosperous middle class taxpayers, most of whom had not attended college, willingly invested in hundreds of new colleges to give the younger generation the opportunity to get a college degree.

Virtually any high school graduate could afford to enroll, because most costs were subsidized by state taxes. The college grads repaid the investment by growing the economy and supporting state infrastructure with higher taxes.

That was then.

Today, community colleges and state colleges and universities still provide the same opportunity to pursue a college degree, but it's no longer so inexpensive. Tuition, fees, books, and related living expenses are burdening students with massive debts. These rising costs are well known. They get extensive media coverage, and they exert pressure on college and state budgets.

Another cost is less obvious: thousands of college students drop out and don't earn a degree. It's an enormous waste of money, resources, and potential. The knowledge gained while enrolled has some value, but a diploma has incomparably greater economic value, as the ticket to a higher-paying and more productive occupation. News reports enumerate the social consequences: families struggling to get by, businesses trying to find skilled employees, housing costs exceeding incomes, health care becoming unaffordable. The middle class is disappearing, and the state depends on the top 1% of income tax payers to cover almost half the state's expenses, mostly for schools.

They are dropping out for many reasons, including personal finances and family responsibilities, but mainly they are unprepared for college-level academics, especially English, math, and science. They are not "college-ready."

The attached PDF document is intended to offer a partial solution for the dropout problem. It may be a futile thought experiment, doomed to be lost in the unexplored outer reaches of the Internet. But it cost nothing to create, nothing to publish, and the price is the ever-popular FREE. Worth a shot.

It's actually pretty good. It has intrinsic value. It has modest intentions, to help one person at a time. All it requires is a motivated individual, to try it out and see the improvement.

Philosophical note

Experience has demonstrated that it's hard, if not impossible, to help anyone who is unwilling to help himself. Otherwise altruistic people are unwilling to waste time or money on a lost cause. By contrast, someone who is already actively helping himself may not have to ask anyone for help -- self-helpers recognize the trait in others and will offer help to others without prompting, knowing they can make a difference.

The attached document is for self-helpers. More power to you.

Yet more words

The preceding is all you need, just read the PDF. This whole thing is way too long by conventional online post standards, but its purpose is more serious and intended for a more diligent reader. Maybe the following will better explain what's going on here.

College students who don't graduate are a huge problem, wasting funds and human capital. It's a major concern to students, teachers, administrators, politicians, taxpayers. No one needs a formal commission to give it serious consideration and to suggest possible solutions.

In contrast to national or state-wide programs, this approach is small-scale and free. It requires no authorization, funding, or administration. An individual can accomplish a lot if they have good intentions, a good plan, and the time to work on it, allowing for interruptions and set-backs. This was written by an individual, for an individual.

The ideal end-user is a high school junior who intends to enroll in college, assuming (wrongly) that a high school diploma means they are ready for the next step. Acceptance by a college is seen as further proof that all is well and success is assured.

What they don't realize is that they are not ready, that college demands far greater thinking ability and basic knowledge than high school did. They don't know this because their only frame of reference is their high school's low standards, and they are surrounded by peers who are also performing at a low level. It's normal.

Meanwhile, colleges keep enrolling everybody. So: Increased costs. Student debts. Budget deficits.

People are employed to implement the expensive programs and there is overwhelming political pressure to maintain funding. Everyone involved, from a student to the President, is desperate to keep the funds flowing.

There is lots of rhetoric, from "free market creative destruction" to "free college for all," and all the variations in the political spectrum. But the problem persists. Not much is likely to change in the near future, absent a disaster like a war, depression, epidemic -- something that makes educational policies relatively trivial.

But maybe an individual could firstly realize their academic and life-skills shortcomings, then choose to quickly and efficiently learn the simple, basic facts that would best prepare them for life beyond high school -- for college in particular, but also for the real world, to flourish in a capitalist democracy. Ideally, during the high school senior year, independently, supplementing the standard curriculum.

There are certain "key concepts," fundamental truths that govern reality, whether a natural law like gravity or an economic force like the profit motive. They are not obvious, but once learned, they are in evidence every day, everywhere. Informed by this knowledge, things start to make sense.

Knowledge is power.

The PDF includes a "checklist" of these key concepts. It would be far better if each item on the checklist were matched with a link to a simple explanation, using words, numbers, and graphics. That's Phase Two, in progress. Meanwhile, Google or Wikipedia should suffice. (Math materials are already complete at http://www.emit.org/ocseamath/mathindex.html)

There are no items about history or psychology. Too subjective, even contentious. My criteria were restricted to those "key concepts" that would be nearly universal and most likely to be useful and helpful to know in college and beyond. Mainly writing, math, and science, the primary impediments to college success.

The end. The start.

Hopefully, something with intrinsic value, priced at $0.00, will be found useful. The Internet exists to distribute content, in proportion to its quality and the number of people who can benefit. A PDF file can be reproduced on screens or printed on paper a thousand times with no decrease in resolution. This is an interesting experiment to see if it has any effect. Sometimes you start out with a good plan and serendipity makes it better in a surprising way. The important thing is to start.