Academics, not finances, rank as top challenge for incoming college students

Only one-third of today’s public high school graduates are ready to perform college work, according to Dr. Mary Pat Seurkamp, president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

A general lack of readiness among incoming freshmen from public school systems is one of the top challenges colleges are facing, Seurkamp told members of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s President’s Advisory Council. “The more serious barrier is academic, not financial,” she said. “The students are not ready for college.”

Seurkamp was part of a panel of GBC-member college presidents who discussed challenges facing colleges in Maryland and issues relating to fulfilling the workforce needs of the business community. Joining Seurkamp on the panel were Dr. Martha A. Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College, and Dr. Robert L. Caret, president of Towson University.

Panelists also cited the growing number of “non-traditional” older students, the increasing need for online instruction, and increasing workforce development roles businesses require of colleges for students who are already in the workforce.

Students aged 25 or older make up the fastest-growing segment of college students, said Seurkamp.

Caret noted that the current demand for online college courses “is huge.” Despite some debate among academics as to the effectiveness of online instruction, a well-designed online course can deliver high quality. “It’s a new world, but it’s a growing world,” Caret said.

Community Colleges in Maryland have adapted to their roles as partners with the business community in workforce development, said Smith. “We know when you have a training need, it can’t wait until next semester.”

Other issues discussed by panelists included:

  • A growing trend for students to attend two-year colleges for their freshmen and sophomore years. Noting that transfer students comprise a significant portion of Towson University’s student body, Caret predicted more coordination and interaction between two-year and four-year colleges.
  • The business need for college graduates who are academically prepared, and who also are creative thinkers. “If we’re going to continue to succeed in a global market, we’re going to need people who can think and who are imaginative,” said Smith.

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