Posts tagged ‘college completion rates’

November 6, 2013

U.S. spends ‘extraordinary amounts of money to produce college dropouts’

by Grace

We spend more of our economy on higher education than almost any other developed country, and achieve some of the worst results. 

… We devote more of our economy to postsecondary education than any other developed country (except South Korea, with whom we’re tied), according to a new report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. But we’re rated near the bottom of the 20 countries included by college spending “efficiency”—or, degrees earned per percentage point of GDP spent.*


Much of the waste is related to colleges with low completion rates, which essentially function as “dropout factories”.

… Unlike, say, Germany with its renowned apprenticeship systems, there aren’t really great alternatives to college if you want a middle-class life in the United States. So ill-prepared young adults flood into degree programs they never finish, leaving the U.S. with some of the lowest completion rates in the developed world.

It is undeniably expensive to provide low-income students with the opportunity for higher education, but these numbers call into question how well the U.S. is doing in this endeavor.

Related:  Increasing college merit aid decreases enrollment of minority and low-income students (Cost of College)

October 1, 2013

Common reasons for failing to graduate college in four years

by Grace

One of the surest ways to cut college costs is to graduate in four years or less, but today most full-time college students fail to meet that goal.


Being aware of the typical pitfalls that tend to delay graduation can help parents and students in taking the steps needed to get that college degree in four years instead of five or six.  Here are what some CollegeConfidential parents say are reasons so few students graduate in four years.

  • Students working too many hours
  • Classes needed to graduate are not available, sometimes related to budget cuts but often just because the recommended sequence of study means every course is not offered every semester.  If a student gets off track, it may be difficult to fit in all required courses within four years.
  • Starting without a plan
  • Not taking a full load each semester. Not paying careful attention to graduation requirements.
  • Transferring between schools, with not all courses transferring with credit
  • Changing majors, sometimes more than once
  • Adding a second major or minor
  • Partying too much
  • Lacking motivation or persistence
  • Poor academic advising
  • Not prepared for college level work, needing remedial courses or dropping, failing or having to repeat a course/courses.  Not being able to handle a full load on average.
  • The growing attitude that everyone should go to college, with the result that many students who are not prepared for college-level work are pushed to attend.
  • Running out of money
  • Not understanding that while 12 credits is considered full-time, that’s not enough to graduate.
  • Taking time out for an internship or co-op
  • Some majors at some schools are particularly difficult to complete in four years.  Often engineering is like this, sometimes because most students find it too challenging to stay on track with a full schedule of courses that leaves little room for flexibility.

Private schools have better four-year graduation rates than public schools, but a goal-oriented student who plans ahead and is well prepared for college level work has a high probability of graduating on time wherever he attends.  It should be noted that many students actually plan ahead knowing they will take longer to finish college, often for legitimate financial reasons.

Some colleges seem to want to keep students as long as possible.

Sometimes colleges seem to encourage students to take their time and not rush through college.   When I was visiting prospective colleges with my son, several speakers told us there was no need to be in a hurry to pick a major.  They stressed that it wasn’t really necessary to select a major until junior year, a move which seems like a good way to keep a student from graduating in four years.

I took five years to complete my degree.  The reasons were poor planning due to ignorance about career options and changing my major at the end of my junior year.

Related:  2013, Digest of Education Statistics 2012, Table 376. Percentage of first-time full-time bachelor’s degree-seeking students at 4-year institutions who completed a bachelor’s degree, by race/ethnicity, time to completion, sex, and control of institution: Selected cohort entry years, 1996 through 2005 

June 28, 2013

Are climbing college completion rates a good trend?

by Grace

College completion rates continue to climb, as shown by these charts from the Pew Research Center.


Slightly higher rates for the younger population:


For years, the idea has been growing that college is as necessary as high school was 40 years ago. In 2010, 75 percent of Americans said college was very important, compared with just 36 percent in 1978, the report notes.

President Obama has set a goal for the US to lead the world by 2020 in the percentage of young people earning college degrees or postsecondary certificates.

The increases in the Pew report indicate a “rather slow climb” that would need to accelerate to meet the president’s goal, says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While the long-term trend is up, recent increases could be related to the difficulty of finding jobs during the latest recession.

During better economic times, education attainment rates have been more stagnant. It’s possible, Fry says, that rates will tick downward somewhat as the labor market improves.

Maybe lower education attainment rates would be a positive change, since we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs.


Ann Althouse speculates about the reasons “Young adults are earning college degrees at a record rate.”

Good question. Why? Doing what you’re told? Nothing better to do? Putting off the time when the consequences of your decisions become apparent? High self-esteem leading you to think you’re the exception to the trend? Being part of the trend, going where everyone else is going?

Related:  College graduates are no longer ‘special’ (Cost of College)

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