Nationwide, fully 2 percent (400,000) of college students never finished high school. A few schools even cater to the dropout crowd. Ninety-four percent of students at Interboro Institute in Manhattan, for example, carry that dubious title. It's a hot-button issue in New York, because these students are still eligible for state financial aid. Governor George Pataki thinks that's a problem. Why should the state pay for students who most likely will flunk out of college, asked the governor's spokesman, when "they were admitted to programs for which they were academically underprepared"? Still, not all dropouts are lost causes, as a recent Gates Foundation survey found; the genius of the American system is its openness to second and third chances. Pataki's compromise is for students to earn 24 hours of credit before receiving aid, in order to prove they can handle the work. Others want dropouts to pass a stringent college entrance exam (before disbursing aid, the federal Education Department requires those without high school credentials to pass a test showing they have the "ability to benefit" from higher education). Both ideas are better than opening the gravy train to college. A university degree opens doors, but not if you can't read the signs above them.

"Can't Complete High School? Go Right Along to College," by Karen W. Arenson, New York Times, May 30, 2006

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