Predicting College Success

Posted: 1st August 2013 by EricBierker in Uncategorized



I came from a family where my parents were college-educated. I went to a high school where 90% of the students attended four year colleges. In other words, I had two highly influential variables in my favor for completing college. Studies like this pretty much state the obvious. I guess it takes an official research project to confirm the obvious. The real question is what is to be done about the problem.

Here are a few thoughts:

– We need to eliminate race-based and ethnically-skewed admission practices. I don’t minimize the particularly difficult college adjustment issues that Black and Latino students face, but I think we are on much safer ground to create avenues for all economically poor students to attend college-equally, without any further qualification. If a higher education institution makes an adjustment for its college admits, it should be on the programming side, not on the admissions side. For instance, Black students may need specific interventions that acknowledge that the cookie-cooker approach does not work for them. Or Native American kids. There are huge cultural variables that cannot be avoided and must be addressed. Or poor white kids from trailer parks.

– Tie financial aid to high school GPA. Humans, being at least somewhat rational, respond to incentives. For too long, the high school years academic performance has not been tied to government financial aid. The logic instead has been get into college and we give you aid based on income and assets. Some states are increasing aid based on academic performance, as well they should. High Schools that inflate GPA will become apparent within four years or sooner of its graduates–based on college retention and graduation rates–and there needs to be corrections for institutional rigor of those secondary schools. If one high school’s “A” is shown to be inflated, it is only fair that college learn those patterns and apply a formula to adjust for it. And disburse aid appropriately.

– Many critics of college admissions have pointed this out before but each applicant needs to go to the appropriate college for their academic profile. Too often, there is a serious lack of goodness of fit between students and colleges and the elimination of all variables except for academic performance will do much to align the student with the institution where they have the highest probability of success.  I mean, the best variable for a shoe is how it fits the foot. It is stupid to elevate other factors if the shoe is the wrong size. Only if the shoe fits, does fashion and other variables come into play. We have a lot of kids who may have a higher academic profile than their demographic group but they must be compared to all college-bound, not their sub-group.

– My book (above) is serious attempt for me to address the “big ideas” of college transition. As adults, we often view our experiences as a standard for viewing the norm when in fact, our experiences may be more unique for us than we realize. Time Management for example. Very high schools teach this well. It is assumed that students learn this in the course of their studies. Not so. I could go on and on how we make assumptions about what kids do and do not know, with little true evaluation of where their skill set stands on some critical competencies.  I think the inequalities can be lessened but decision-makers must listen to people like me who work in the field and have done the hard work to find interventions and solutions.





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