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College readiness ranks high for Wis.

October 29, 2009

A new report published by ACT (American College Testing) profiling each state’s future workforce and readiness for college shows that UW-River Falls’ had 39 percent of ACT scores in the 20-23 range, 25 percent in the 16-19 range and 24 percent in the 24-27 range.

Of this year’s incoming freshman, 63 percent were female and 37 percent were male.

The average ACT composite score in Wisconsin was 22.5 for females and 22.7 for males. The national average was 21.1.

ACT, which has been tracking career interest for over 50 years, compiled the data based on career interest and skill preparation of the 2009 ACT-tested high school graduates.

The results of readiness for Wisconsin indicate that 77 percent of students are prepared for college English composition, 53 percent for college algebra, 62 for college social sciences and 37 percent for college biology.

All four of these percentages are above the national average with around 10 percent more for each category.

The number of students meeting college readiness benchmarks decreased in the state of Wisconsin this year, going from 46,990 to 46,658.

According to the ACT Profile Report, “A benchmark score is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or above a 75 percent
change of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses.”

Fifty-four percent of the graduating students in Wisconsin are female and 46 percent are male. Thirty percent of Wisconsin graduates met all four of the of the ACT benchmark scores.

This is higher than the twenty-three percent of national 2009 high school graduates that met all four of the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks. This is up one percent from 2008.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on the 2006-2016 annual projected job openings, the nation’s five fastest-growing career fields are education,
computer/information specialties, community services, management and marketing/sales.

For each of the 2016 projected five fastest-growing career fields, more than half of the nation’s 2009 ACT-tested high school graduates interested in these fields did not meet the college readiness benchmarks in mathematics or science.

As a result, many students are not on the right path to take advantage of career opportunities in these high-growth fields.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Services Alan Tuchtenhagen believes there is huge disconnect between K-12 education and college course work.

“There is often a disconnect between college and high school,” he said. “Students are not always prepared coming out of high school and as a result, may struggle in the early parts of their college
curriculum.”

UWRF junior Kurtis Burton, a Menomonie High School graduate, had a different experience with the disconnect between college and high school course work.

“I felt like I was not prepared for college life based on what I learned in high school. I was wrong; it is just one step up from high school when it comes to most subjects. Yes, we may have fewer hours of class than in high school, but the hours we put in outside of class are greater than in high school. So in my opinion, it balances everything out very nicely and the work between high school and college is
about the same,” Burton said.

The average student at UWRF carries about 14 credits per semester. This leaves students with a total of 9-10 semesters to complete before graduating. This can prove a challenge when students take on a double major.

It is these challenges that cause Tuchtenhagen to believe that UWRF freshman need to get ahead early on.

“We need to encourage freshman students to take as rigorous courses as possible,” Tuchtenhagen said.

UWRF junior Mae Booth experienced these challenges at the beginning of her college career.

“It was a major transition. The course work was larger and more vigorous. I really had to take responsibility by making sure I managed my time well so I could finish all of the tasks that were assigned.

After a semester or so I was able to get use to being in college,” Booth said.

Enrollment at UWRF went down in 2008 from 1345 to 1336. However, the retention rate is increasing from years past, according to Tuchtenhagen.