2-Year Colleges Backing Away From 'Open-Door' Admissions

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The notion that anyone with a high-school diploma or equivalent skills can attend college may become a thing of the past as community colleges, traditionally the higher-education institutions with "open-door'' enrollment policies, start tightening academic standards.

Because of the costliness of remedial programs and the public outcry for higher standards at every level of education, two-year institutions, say their officials, are establishing admissions requirements for the first time.

Tightening Standards

They are also tightening standards in their academic programs, requiring that students demonstrate proficiency in basic skills and suspending or dismissing students who continue to fail courses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Nationally, community colleges enroll more than 4.8 million students, about 40 percent of all students who attend college. Nearly one million recent high-school graduates (aged 17-19) enroll full time at community colleges.

Among recent actions cited by The Chronicle:

Essex County College in New Jersey is developing new admissions standards that will require incoming students to demonstrate mathematics and reading skills at an 8th-grade level.

Passaic County Community College has restricted enrollment in its remedial programs to students who can read at the 8th-grade level or above.

The California Community College sys-tem has tightened requirements for the associate degree. Among other changes, each of the 107 community colleges must establish standards of proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics and must certify that students meet those standards before they can graduate.

The Florida Department of Education is developing a basic-skills test for students seeking an associate degree or admission to upper-division status at a four-year institution.

Miami-Dade Community College has established a program called "Standards of Academic Progress" that allows the college to monitor a student's academic program with the aid of a computerized records system. Students must overcome deficiencies in basic skills, complete courses in proper sequence, and maintain a minimum grade level or they cannot continue in college.

Reaction to tightened standards among community-college leaders is mixed. Though many complain that universal access has precipitated the decline in academic standards, they also feel that community colleges have an obligation to maintain an open door because they are the primary institutions providing educational opportunity for disadvantaged students.

B.A. Barringer, president of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J., calls the decision to exclude students solely because they lack academic skills "a dangerous and ill-advised reaction" to the problem of limited resources.

Poorly prepared students may "never attain a degree, but they deserve a chance to learn," Mr. Barringer says.sr

Vol. 02, Issue 05

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