The Future of Education: A Poll

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Over the summer, The Atlantic asked 30 college and university presidents questions about the hypothetical abolition of tenure at their schools, incoming student preparedness, and international competitiveness of American post-secondary schools. The poll was part of a larger initiative to assemble top experts across a number of fields to work with The Atlantic as an editorial advisory panel.

The presidents who responded to the survey represented 10 liberal arts and 20 research universities, six public and 24 private institutions, and more than 300,000 of the nation's top undergraduate students. Nine of the schools represented are in U.S. News and World Report's top 20 rankings, and three are Ivy League. The average school size is around 10,500 undergraduate students.

Are Students Ready for College?

Participants were asked what percentage of their schools' incoming students are "still under-prepared" to pursue their studies when they matriculate. A majority of respondents say that between 95 and 100 percent of incoming students are prepared for studies. Six of the 30 respondents say that 99 or 100 percent are "prepared from the start."

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However, most respondents answered the question by emphasizing the selectiveness of their admissions processes:

Academic credentials required for admission are very high, and students who choose [this school] are interested in a rigorous undergraduate education. Kids don't come if they're unprepared to run on a very fast track.

-- President of a public research university with 5,000 to 10,000 students

A small minority of respondents mentioned that their schools take in students who may not be fully prepared for academics from the start, but who are admitted for other reasons. These respondents said that their schools provide focused academic attention and advising to help these students catch up:

We have a small number of students that we consciously take risks on at the time of admission. These are usually students who have overcome enormous odds to get to [this school]. We make a point of identifying them at the time of admissions and work with them to ensure that they prepare themselves for the challenges they are likely to encounter in the classroom as first year students. We also make sure that they are advised by some of the very best supportive academic advisors at [this school].

-- President of a private research university with 5,000 to 10,000 students
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Emily Q. Hazzard is an associate editor at WaPo Labs. She was previously an associate producer for Al Jazeera's The Stream and an editorial project associate at The Atlantic.

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