When you look at the national statistics on college graduation rates, there are two big trends that stand out right away. The first is that there are a whole lot of students who make it to college — who show up on campus and enroll in classes — but never get their degrees. More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary.
The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t. Or to put it more statistically: About a quarter of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will manage to collect a bachelor’s degree by age 24, while almost 90 percent of freshmen born into families in the top income quartile will go on to finish their degree.
When you read about those gaps, you might assume that they mostly have to do with ability. Rich kids do better on the SAT, so of course they do better in college. But ability turns out to be a relatively minor factor behind this divide. If you compare college students with the same standardized-test scores who come from different family backgrounds, you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores. Take students like Vanessa Brewer, who do moderately well on standardized tests — scoring between 1,000 and 1,200 out of 1,600 on the SAT. If those students come from families in the top-income quartile, they have a 2 in 3 chance of graduating with a four-year degree. If they come from families in the bottom quartile, they have just a 1 in 6 chance of making it to graduation.
The good news for Vanessa is that she had improved her odds by enrolling in a highly selective college. Many low-income students “undermatch,” meaning that they don’t attend — or even apply to — the most selective college that would accept them. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more selective the college you choose, the higher your likelihood of graduating. But even among the highly educated students of U.T., parental income and education play a huge role in determining who will graduate on time. An internal U.T. report published in 2012 showed that only 39 percent of first-generation students (meaning students whose parents weren’t college graduates) graduated in four years, compared with 60 percent whose parents both graduated from college. So Vanessa was caught in something of a paradox. According to her academic record, she had all the ability she needed to succeed at an elite college; according to the demographic statistics, she was at serious risk of failing. Continue reading “Who graduates and who doesn’t”
In the U.S.,students are enrolling in college in record numbers, but they’re also dropping out in droves.
Barely half of those who start four-year colleges, and only a third of community college students, graduate. Today’s New York Times reports that “it’s one of the worst records among developed nations, and it’s a substantial drain on the economy. The American Institutes for Research estimates the cost of those dropouts, measured in lost earnings and taxes, at $4.5 billion. Incalculable are the lost opportunities for social mobility and the stillborn professional careers.
“There’s a remedy at hand, though, and it’s pretty straightforward. Nationwide, universities need to give undergraduates the care and attention akin to what’s lavished on students at elite institutions. If that help is forthcoming, graduation rates more than double, according to several evaluations of an innovative program at the City University of New York’s community colleges. Over the past month, CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) has garnered hosannas in the media for its package of comprehensive financial resources, student support systems and impressive graduation rates. The social policy leader MDRC is conducting a multiyear random-assignment study of ASAP and, in a just-released report, describes it as “unparalleled in large-scale experimental evaluations of programs in higher education to date.” Continue reading “To graduate, or not to graduate”
An administrative law judge in Florida this week upheld new rules by the State Department of Education that require significantly more of state college faculty members — particularly in the areas of student success — for them to earn continuing contracts (the equivalent of tenure).
As InsiderHigher Ed reports, “The United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union in the state, had challenged the new rules as beyond the scope of the department’s powers. But the judge rejected that view and said that the board was within its rights. The rules affect faculty members at the state college system, which was formerly a community college system but no longer uses that label as many of the former community colleges have introduced some four-year programs. The system — with 28 colleges, nearly 25,000 faculty members and 879,000 students — is among the largest in the United States.
“Colleges and universities nationally have been under increasing pressure to demonstrate their success (as institutions) in student learning. And there has been a strong push in some K-12 districts to evaluate teachers in part based on student learning gains as measured by tests. But the movement is unpopular with educators, who say that such systems tend to punish instructors who — however talented and committed they are — teach poorly prepared or disadvantaged students.
The rules that have now been approved state that each district president, after consulting with faculty, should develop a system to evaluate faculty members, using “appropriate criteria to measure student success.” Those criteria “may include”:
- Demonstrated or documented learning gains.
- Course completion rates.
- Graduation and/or certification rates.
- Continued success in subsequent and additional courses or educational pursuits.
- Job placements in the appropriate field.
“The criteria would be used not only for awarding new continuing contracts, but also for the equivalent of post-tenure reviews, which are also mandated by the new rules. The faculty challenge to the new rules said that the state board lacked the authority to make such specific changes in the way continuing contracts are awarded.”
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/27/judge-upholds-new-florida-rules-tenure-and-student-success#ixzz2ojrmytlt
Inside Higher Ed
Community college students face long odds of eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. And those odds get worse if they leave college more than once along the way, reports Inside Higher Ed
“That is the central finding of a new study that tracked the progress of 38,000 community college students in Texas. Toby J. Park, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy at Florida State University, conducted the research. His working paper was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education in St. Louis.
“The group of students he studied first enrolled in 2000. Among them, fully 94 percent “stopped out” of college at least once, by experiencing a “period of non-enrollment.”
“Most of the students returned to their studies, according to the paper, which is titled “Stop-Out and Time for Work: An Analysis of Degree Trajectories for Community College Students.” More than 20,000, or 72 percent, of the cohort came back to some Texas college in the sample, which used data from the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the state’s comptroller.
“Even students who eventually earned a bachelor’s degree were likely to spend time away from college. Only 13 percent of the 6,200 four-year degree-holders in the sample did not stop out.
“However, the study found that 76 percent of those degree completers took only one break from college. After stopping out after a second time, the percentage of returning students completing a bachelor’s degree decreases substantially.
“If you leave twice,” Park said, “you’re not going to come back.” Continue reading “Community college students and later attrition”
Here may be the most commonplace sentence anyone could write about graduation day in any year, writes Tom Engelhardt in today’s Le Monde: “When I think back to my own graduation in 1966, an eon, a lifetime, a world ago, I have no memory of who addressed us. None. I have a little packet of photos of the event: shots of my parents and me, my grandmother and me, my aunt and me, my former roommates and me, my friends and me. You can even see the chairs for the ceremony. But not the speaker. And yet it’s odds on that he — and in 1966, it was surely a “he” — made some effort to usher me into the American world, offering me, as a member of a new generation, words of wisdom and some advice. You know, the usual thing that no one pays much attention to or ever remembers.
“Here, on the other hand, is my most vivid memory of that day. I reserved a room at a local motel for my parents the night before the graduation ceremony. As it happened, I had reserved the same room the previous night for my girlfriend and me (and conveniently not paid for it). When, on the morning of graduation, I picked my parents up and my father went to pay, the hotel clerk charged him for both nights, winked, and said something suggestive.
“It was, believe me, a humiliatingly uncomfortable moment. Despite what you’ve heard about the 1960s, this wasn’t acceptable behavior. I wonder what was in my mind then? Was I really incapable at the time of thinking 24 hours ahead? Or was I simply out to rile my parents up? At this distance, who knows? I may not even have known then, since our motivations tend to be far more mysterious, even to us, than we like to think. Continue reading “On graduation”
The graduation rates of UC students came under more scrutiny Wednesday as Gov. Jerry Brown urged administrators and faculty to prod more undergraduates to earn a degree in four years, not six, reports today’s Los Angeles Times
“Brown recently proposed giving UC and Cal State more funds if they increase their graduation rates by 10% by 2017. UC leaders have said that is an admirable but unreasonable goal and that such issues as students’ outside employment and their desire to take double majors slow them down.
“The rates have improved in recent years, partly due to higher tuition pressuring students to finish on time, officials said at a UC regents meeting in Sacramento. About 60% of UC students who enter as freshmen now graduate in four years and about 83% in six years, according to a report from UC system Provost Aimee Dorr. Those are significantly better numbers than other public research universities but worse than top private campuses, she said.
“Brown, who attended part of the regents’ meeting, expressed exasperation with Dorr’s many statistics, what he implied was her lack of solid solutions and her lecture-like presentation. “This was a good first semester,” Brown said, with a touch of anti-academic humor. “But I want to get to the second semester” for answers.
“He urged UC to stop citing the six-year rate, which is widely used by the federal government and other schools. “For me the four year is the norm,” he said. And he asked UC to examine why various UC campuses have better rates than others and why a number show improvements in some years and not in others. He said he wanted to know if that might be caused by factors within UC or “in the outside world.”
More at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-uc-regents-20130516,0,33245.story