Every year poorly prepared college students cost Californians some $14 billion in remedial education programs, according to a new report published by the Pacific Research Institute or PRI. The report “The High Price of Failure in California: How Inadequate Education Costs Schools, Students, and Society,” argues that these direct and indirect costs rival California’s $17 million budget deficit.
Among the specific estimates cited in the report are $274 million for public colleges and community colleges, $107 million to $447 million for California businesses and $1.1 to $5.5 billion in annual earnings lost to students who do not graduate.
Students are the only ones who suffer. The state loses from $194 million to $1.05 billion in tax revenues while sustaining an increase of $1.9 billion to 1.05 billion in health care, crime and welfare costs, according to the report’s author, Dr. Vicki E. Murray, a senior education fellow at PRI.
Efforts to reduce the need for remedial education go back decades. In 1996 California State University trustees adopted a policy to reduce the need for remediation for incoming freshman to 10 percent by 2007.
“Unfortunately, the results have not been encouraging,” said Murray. In 2006, the most recent year for which there is complete data, 30 percent of freshmen entering the University of California system required remedial classes in math or reading. Sixty percent of California State University and 90 percent of community college students took remedial classes. Sadly, some 40 percent of these students will drop out before graduating.
“California can no longer afford it’s promote now, pay later approach to academic preparation,” said Murray. “An ounce of prevention today can save pounds of remediation-related costs tomorrow.”
Her book offers specific recommendations to improve academic achievement; including using the existing California Standards Tests to gauge students’ four-year college readiness, a single statistical forecasting model to track student’s academic proficiency in grades K-12.
Murray also recommends putting teeth into the ban on social promotion by redirecting all funds to “money-back guarantee” remediation grants to individual students, instead of dividing it among elementary, secondary and postsecondary remedial and related prevention programs.
“Such a system would replace these ineffective programs and mandates with powerful incentives to improve basic skills and college-readiness rates. It would also promote a competitive, date-driven network of remedial education providers free to develop a variety of effective strategies that could be used statewide,” Murray said.
PRI was founded in 1979 to promote the “principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility” and has long been associated with the American Enterprise Institute and other conservative think-tanks. In 1987 it received money from Philip Morris to help promote its “Youth Smoking Prevention” programs according to SourceWatch encyclopedia.
But the free-market think tank is best-known for its Index of Leading Environmental Indicators and its CEO Sally C. Pipes’ ceaseless campaign against universal health care.
Last year she told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News that “If we provide health insurance, like we provide welfare and education for illegal aliens, we are going to get a huge influx of illegal immigrants into California. And that’s going to make it [health care] even more expensive [than the current system].”