Everyone from President Barack Obama to U.S. Representative Paul Ryan to Bill Gates seems to have a plan for improving the Federal Pell Grant Program for higher education.
Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years
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Worthy though some of these efforts may be, none get to the crux of the problem: A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates, and warping the country’s K–12 system.
About two-thirds of low-income community-college students—and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges—need remedial (a.k.a. “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of low-income students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of such students earn a four-year degree within six years.
What if the government decreed that, starting three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit-bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?
One could foresee various possible outcomes. Let’s start with the positive. Ambitious, low-income high school...