5 ways Common Core could impact higher ed

If new Common Core standards are successful, high schools will turn out graduates ready to succeed in college or in a career. That's because the Common Core initiative aims to give students across the country a shared foundation in basic skills. The unified standards in math and English are meant to provide clear expectations and to take the place of a hodge-podge of state-by-state standards.

Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core and will fully implement it by the 2014-15 school year. If the standards succeed — and it could take years for the results to shake out — how might these new standards affect higher education?

Here are five possibilities: 

1. Less need for remedial courses at colleges and universities

Right now, colleges find themselves offering remedial education to as many as one-third of their students. Common Core takes direct aim at that figure. If the new standards succeed, students would arrive better prepared and fewer students would need remedial English and math classes at the college level.

2. Higher student retention rates from students more prepared for the rigors of college-level classes

Just over half of students at four-year colleges complete degrees within six years. At two-year colleges, only 29% of students finish within three years. Why? Cost is certainly one reason, but another is the inability to handle college-level coursework. With a successful Common Core program, students would be more prepared and more likely to finish their degrees.

3. Colleges could set higher bars for admission (though other factors may work against this)

A student body more prepared for high-level academic work could mean that some colleges and universities raise the bar for admission, although other factors — such as an improving economy where people are more likely to enter the workforce than college — may work against this trend.

4. More dual-enrollment programs between high schools and colleges could crop up

With some signs pointing to early degree programs on the rise across the U.S., more such programs could emerge as standards for high school students grow more closely aligned with college-level work. Also, if students meet the goals set by Common Core standards in 11th grade, they may drive up demand for dual-enrollment programs that offer them a head-start on college. (The National Center for Postsecondary Education addresses this possibility on Page 35 of its report.)

5. Teacher colleges would need to prepare teachers for new standards

Looking at the puzzle from the other end of the process means focusing not just on students entering college, but on college students preparing to teach the next generation of college students. Data from the National Council on Teacher Quality suggest most programs are not up to the task of training teachers in Common Core subjects. Education majors would need to have the background to successfully teach students in order to make the most of the new standards.


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Filed Under: Higher Ed K12 Policy & Regulation
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