Do today’s high school students have what it takes to succeed in college? If you look at the latest numbers from the nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement testing programs, most don’t.

The College Board recently released a report in which it determined that 58% of SAT test-takers in the class of 2015 were not ready for college-level work or, for that matter, a successful post–high school career for those who choose to forgo continuing their institutional education.

To some who teach at the college level, this probably comes as no surprise, as more and more first- and second-year students appear to be struggling to keep up with the work. The problem, however, shouldn’t be dismissed as exclusively the fault of an educational system that fails to adequately prepare their young charges for what comes after they have been herded through the lower grades.

Rather, what deserves closer examination is the questionable ethics of encouraging students who are clearly not equipped with the skills and resources to succeed in college to apply nonetheless—and accepting them into programs they are unlikely to complete.

What other explanation could there when nearly 70% of all high school graduates end up in college when only 42% are up to the challenge?

Higher education is a volume-driven business. So it’s reasonable to assume that as the number of college-ready applicants declines, those schools that are under pressure may choose to respond by relaxing admission standards. Yet how would that shift in policy be communicated to the faculty? In a memo that essentially says, “Heads up, folks: We’ve just dropped trou on admissions, so ease up on your curricula.”

It’s a mystery that the college graduation rate is still stuck in the 60% range (when outcomes are measured at the six-year mark) and student-loan payment delinquencies are mounting. Those are some of the issues the Obama administration is now attempting to address.

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Mitchell D. Weiss