One way to lower the college dropout rate is by providing extensive remediation and financial aid to students who struggle to stay in college. Another way is by restricting admission and financial aid to students who are prepared to handle the course work. Richard Vedder thinks the second option makes more sense.
College dropouts pay a heavy price, in both financial and opportunity costs.
There are two fundamentally different approaches to dealing with the problem. One says “let’s remove some of the problems that afflict today’s dropouts.” In particular, let us remove some of the educational and economic barriers that might enhance dropping out. Let’s give more financial aid to the low income student, for example, or more and better remedial education. In other words, let us spend money trying to alleviate some causes of dropping out.
The second approach is almost the opposite. Let us not accept into four year colleges students whose record suggest would have a very low probability of success. For example, students in, say, the bottom half of their high school graduating classes typically have a very low probability of graduating successfully in a reasonable time frame (four or five years) from college. Students with very low SAT (say a composite on the verbal and analytical sections of below 900) or ACT (say 18 or less) scores should not be admitted to four year schools. Indeed, it should be possible to devise a “probability of college success” index based on a combination of three factors: quality of the high school attended, high school rank, and scores on college admissions test.
Those failing to meet the admissions thresholds should be allowed to attend community colleges or non-degree schools offering certificated vocational training and, if they succeed there, be allowed to proceed to four year schools. This approach should not only reduce the dropout rate, it should save a good deal of money, both for students and taxpayers. It should reduce student loan repayment problems a bit, and lower loan delinquency rates.
Above all, a more restrictive admissions approach would in the long run reduce the mismatch between the availability of relatively high paying jobs and the numbers of college graduates seeking those jobs. We have too many college graduates, not too few.
Vedder argues this solution is not “anti-minority”.
The 1 DuPont Circle crowd (the higher education establishment’s lobbyists) would fight such a proposal tooth and nail. They would argue that it is anti-access, anti-minority. I would argue it would be a proposal for successful access and align student expectations more closely with potential outcomes. It would reduce enrollments and revenues for the colleges, forcing some needed creative destruction upon higher education.