These are both bad decisions. These students did not have learning disabilities or other problems that would prevent them from doing the work well. They just didn't want to work that hard.
This is what colleges will think when they see the transcript: the student does not want to work hard. Sure, they will be admitted to some colleges. However, they will have many fewer colleges to choose from than they would have had should they have continued taking rigorous courses. Many colleges require three or four years of language and four years of mathematics. The students are much less likely to qualify for merit aid or scholarships.
The academic decisions students make in high school are the most important part of the college application process. You can't write an application apologizing for four years of weak academic work, but promise to do better in the future. Would you believe that?