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Academic standards are collapsing in higher education for the sake of equity, scholar writes

Earlier this week, The College Fix reported on how West Virginia University-Parkersburg has lowered its academic standards making it less demanding for students to earn a degree. It turns out the West Virginia school isn’t alone in easing its curricular requirements.

Chester E. Finn, Jr., a senior fellow and president emeritus of the Fordham Institute, writes academic standards are collapsing in higher education. He argues this runs the risk of devaluing degrees and blurring the lines between a high school and college education.

One example of lowering standards comes for the California State University system, Finn writes:

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

Cal State is not alone in dumbing down its curriculum, Finn writes, but he argues the university system takes it to another level:

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “corequisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

The collapsing of academic standards is “a consequence of misguided notions of equity and opportunity,” Finn writes. He adds it extends the illusion of success in place of achievement, and creates consequences for higher education:

This will surely cause an upward tick in college completions and degrees conferred (much as credit recovery has done for high school diplomas) but it will also devalue those degrees and cause any employer seeking evidence of true proficiency to look for other indicators. In the end, it will put pressure on many more people to earn post-graduate degrees and other kinds of credentials, thus adding to the length of time spent preparing for the “real world” and adding to the costs—whether born by students, families, or taxpayers—of that preparation.

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