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Should High School Seniors Be Required to Apply to College?

Washington D.C. council president Kwame Brown wants to require seniors to take the SAT or ACT and apply to college or trade school.

Most 21st-century jobs will require some form of postsecondary education, but should school districts require high school seniors to apply to college or trade school in order to graduate? Washington D.C. council chairman Kwame Brown thinks so. Brown is proposing legislation that would mandate that the 70,000 students enrolled in the District's public schools fill out at least one application and take the SAT or ACT in order to earn a diploma.

"It's clear, when you look at jobs available in the District, many require a minimum of a college degree," Brown told The Washington Post. "The idea is to increase graduation rates and get more young folks who want to go college, college-ready." Although all students would be required to apply, whether or not they plan to continue their education, Brown says he's "not saying everyone should go to college"—but he does believe they should all be prepared if they do want to go.

Last spring, Oregon's House of Representatives passed a similar bill that will deny high school seniors their diplomas until they can prove they have applied to college, the military, or an apprenticeship program. The new graduation requirements—which Oregon says won't cost taxpayers a dime—go into effect in July.

Brown hasn't explained how the District will pay application and testing costs for low-income students, or whether the bill will create formal college and career exploration programs in high schools. Without specific guidance on what to study and how to pay for education, the testing and application process could just become another hoop to for students to jump through. Unless D.C. plans to address its the root causes 43 percent dropout rate, the number of students eligible for graduation will remain abysmally low.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user j.o.h.n. walker

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