DC’s College Tease

Washington, DC’s City Council has a new plan to prepare all of its public school students to succeed beyond high school: just make everyone apply for college.

It’s half-baked ideas like these that perhaps indicate why DC wasn’t allowed to govern itself for six years. According to an article by Tim Craig and Emma Brown in the Washington Post:

The D.C. Council will consider mandating that all city high school students complete college admission testing and seek out higher education, Chairman Kwame R. Brown announced Tuesday.

Under the bill, all 75,000 students in D.C. public schools, including charters, would have to take the SAT or ACT college entrance exam to graduate from high school. Every student would also be required to complete “at least one” application for admission to college or vocational or trade school — even if the student does not intend to continue schooling beyond 12th grade.

Brown’s plan makes no exceptions for people who, say, decide to join the military or who have jobs lined up that don’t require a college degree.

The college-applications-for-all idea strikes me as very let them eat cake. The District of Columbia has some of the worst public schools in America and enrolls some of the poorest people of any school distinct country. And now those students are going to have to apply for college. From the article:

Brown [says] that D.C. students need an extra push to convince them that a college education is attainable. He notes that the city’s public schools have an on-time graduation rate of 43 percent, according to some calculations, and that more than half of its students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.

Of course, those factors could be fairly strong indicators that for many, many students, a college education really isn’t attainable. Without other serious changes to the way DC public schools operate, college is something most of them are unprepared, either intellectually or financially, to attend.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to focus on policies to address the problems that currently result in few students applying to college in the first place. Just making students fill out more forms doesn’t change reality.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer