Where the College Readiness Movement Stands
By Jennifer Kunze, Ph.D.
Director of Ramp-Up to Readiness
About 10 years ago the University of Minnesota embarked on a comprehensive effort to increase and diversify the numbers of students who were going to college to earn a diploma. This effort coincided with a national push to increase degree earning rates across the country as the U.S. was being eclipsed by other nations such as South Korea, Canada, Japan, Russia, Ireland, Lithuania, and Norway. The impetus was that this trend put our nation at risk as we had a growing inability to staff U.S. industries with qualified workers, thus damaging our economy, and leaving the American Dream unfulfilled for far too many Americans.
How is the U.S. faring a decade later? Certainly there have been pockets of successes. Tennessee, for example, made its community colleges free to try to increase college-going rates. As a result of that decision as well as other policies set in motion, Tennessee is on target to have 55 percent of its residents possess certificates or degrees two years ahead of the 2025 deadline, outgoing Governor Bill Haslam said in his 2018 state of the state address. Virginians, in addition, are reportedly earning bachelor’s degrees at record rates and may have the highest proportion of college-educated workers by 2030.
On the flip side, even with Tennessee’s successes, Governor Haslam reported that only 28% of community college students actually graduate with a degree and that 70% of students choosing to attend those schools need remedial work when they arrive. Meanwhile, many states have struggled to make progress toward and thus have pushed back their degree attainment goals.
So how has Ramp-Up to Readiness™ responded to these trends? We are working hard to address the problem. We are more assured than ever that we are doing the right work and are offering a program that our nation and its children need. We rewrote our curriculum from its original focus on Minnesota schools to a nationwide perspective. The Ramp-Up curriculum continues to address trends across the nation, such as helping students learn about the great job opportunities for students that do NOT require a four-year degree. We are also working with out-of-school organizations that lead college and career readiness efforts. As a result, we are proud to report that schools and programs in OR, UT, KS, TX, ND, MN, WI, MI, OH, and CT have chosen to use Ramp-Up to Readiness to help their 6th through 12th-grade students become college and career ready.
In sum, 10 years later we are still at it, even more committed than ever. If you share our goals click the button below for more information.
About the Author: Jennifer Kunze, Ph.D., is the Director of Ramp-Up to Readiness at the University of Minnesota, and is thoroughly committed to college for all. Her additional professional interests include high quality instruction, professional learning systems, and labor trends. She is also a licensed social studies teacher, and has worked in K-12 settings, leading efforts in curriculum and instruction, mentoring/coaching, alternative compensation, and postsecondary readiness.