Lots of high school students would recoil in horror at the idea of a fifth year, but Slate writer Rebecca Schuman thinks schools nationwide should seriously think about adding one. In her home state of Oregon, for example, students can participate in an optional fifth year, one that amounts to a first year of community college. Because these students haven't received their high school diplomas yet, their schools still get state funds to cover the cost. Which means "their transition to postsecondary education comes without tuition, but with substantial support and oversight." And that's huge, given the sad reality that many high school graduates are "woefully unprepared" for college, writes Schuman.
This kind of program can help students entering a vocational career track as well as those bound for the Ivy League. They enter college as sophomores much better prepared. Yes, the funding of it presents a major problem, but creative solutions are out there. Maybe, as in Europe, the students work off their free education with two years of civil or even military service? "It is our job as taxpaying adults to provide young people with the structure that allows them to enter the world prepared," concludes Schuman. "And I think—over the hysterical protestations of my 15-year-old self—that another year in that structure, if done right, might be just the thing to help." Click for the full column.