Out of Pocket: The High Cost of Inadequate High Schools and High School Student Achievement on College Affordability


April 5, 2016


By Mary Nguyen Barry and Michael Dannenberg 


Academic under-preparation at the high school level is seen across income groups and reflected in widespread remedial education at a broad cross-section of colleges.  It’s hurting students’ chances for success in college, costing families a sizable amount out of pocket, and making college a poor value proposition for many families. 


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Hundreds of thousands of American families across all income levels are spending billions each year in extra college costs because our high schools are graduating too many students unprepared for college.  That’s a fact most may not realize, because current discussions around postsecondary remedial education – prerequisite courses that carry zero credit toward a college degree and represent content and skills students should have learned in high school already – are often segregated to low-income students and community colleges. But in truth, many middle-class and upper-income families bear the brunt of extra costs that come with required remedial classes in all college sectors for students from all income levels. In fact, at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities, the children of upper-income families are taking more remedial classes than students from low-income families.

Out-of-pocket tuition and additional living expense costs for these courses represent an expansive failure of our K-12 education system to prepare students to be ready academically for college on day one.


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