Lead students in, not out

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Under-educated students should be given a chance at college.

Here’s an idea: people who aren’t prepared to enter college should be prepared to enter college.

The I-BEST program, which is now proposing to expand to all of the Alamo Colleges, provides students who score below eighth-grade levels with occupational training for in-demand industries.

What they don’t provide, however, is a clear path for their students into higher education.

Students who fail the Accuplacer are being put into I-BEST where they are taught skills they probably could’ve learned on the job anyway.

Vocational training is fine, but it’s unfair to treat it as the only option for those who have been failed by their high-school educators — or those before high school.

People who aren’t ready for college should be taught necessary skills, then led back to where they wanted to go in the first place: community college.

Instead, I-BEST is being treated as a terminal option for such students.

Take the classes, go get a job, go away.

Somehow, the idea that people should be encouraged to continue pursuing education is a controversial one among the board of trustees.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague would have you believe that if someone is unprepared to begin college after high school, college just isn’t for them.

He claims developmental courses, which prepare students to continue college, are a waste of money.

Instead, he claims, under-educated applicants should be tossed into the I-BEST program, where at least they’ll learn to weld.

Education for the educated; burn scars for the rest of you.

Now, college certainly isn’t for everyone, and some may be happy to get free, practical education in a new career, but for those who might want to continue education beyond the training I-BEST currently gives, the path should be clear.

Use I-BEST as a bridge into education and careers, not an island where you put helpless rejects and forget about them.

Workforce training is an option — and not at all a bad one — but not the only one for people who were at one time unprepared to begin community college.

By all means, expand I-BEST to all the colleges, but in doing so, use the program as a means of both providing students with practical skills as well as acclimating them to the campuses, encouraging them to continue pursuing their education, and providing them a clear pathway to that education.

It’s what we do.

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