The College Puzzle Blog
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Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

Declining Students Could Cause Decline in Academic Standards

The New York Times ran a front-page story on March 9 emphasizing 2008 was the peak year for the number of high school seniors. After 2008 many states will experience a sharp decline in potential college attendees. As usual, the Times focused on the impact upon the highly-selective colleges that include only 5% of college enrollment.

But the impact upon broad access 4 year colleges that admit all qualified applicants is more important. These colleges comprise a majority of all 4 year enrollment. Many will be desperate to fill their classes and consequently will lower their de facto minimum admission standards. This will send signals to high school students that they do not need to study for high grades or take challenging college prep courses. Students will realize admissions are getting easier, and college remediation will expand.

These trends mean that postsecondary education needs to stress that rigorous academic courses in secondary school aid college success and completion. Starting in a remedial track lessens the chances of college completion. The midwest and mid-Atlantic states will experience the most grade 12 student decline.

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