OHIO colleges and universities shouldn't be in the business of remedial education, but a recent Ohio Board of Regents report notes that two out of every five students in higher education in this state need remedial instruction during their first year.
Not all the news in the regents' report is bad. Ohioans can be proud that the number of students starting college for the first time rose by about 12,000 between 1996 and 2002, to more than 100,500.
Yet so many of them are totally unprepared for what awaits them there.
This is not a new problem. For years, colleges have offered remedial classes to students who failed to take or master the minimum core requirements in high school. But remedial offerings on such a scale saps colleges' resources. It can't continue indefinitely.
Ohio certainly needs more college graduates. Currently, only 21 percent of Ohio's adults - just below the national average - have a bachelor's degree. That obviously must improve, but higher education shouldn't have to invest so much time in teaching students what they were supposed to learn in high school.
These findings make it incumbent upon high schools to try to ensure that college-bound students are skilled in at least the minimum core curriculum courses. If not, colleges should direct students elsewhere for remedial work. That's what Cleveland State University plans to do as a result of a newly approved policy. Students will take remedial classes at a community college while maintaining enrollment at CSU.
Rob Sheehan, senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Toledo, notes that high school is a tough time to get students to focus on their future. As a result, many don't take seriously the need to take college prep courses.
It's bad enough when one in five college-bound students at Ottawa Hills High School needs post-high school remedial help. But it's appalling that three in five graduates of Toledo Public Schools who go to college need remedial help when they get there.
A separate study by the Education Trust reports that 63 percent of the students in four-year colleges need up to six years to earn a degree instead of the traditional four. That's a concern, but it's not nearly as big a worry as high school graduates who are ill-prepared for college academics. Sometimes other issues, such as the need to work and family problems determine how quickly one finishes college.
What does matter is that Ohio students are fully prepared to compete when they get to college. Otherwise, they may not be able to compete when they leave.