What about the other 44%?

29 04 2011

A few weeks ago, Kati Haycock from the Education Trust in Washington, D.C. came to our campus to give a presentation about student retention. I went because our administration strongly urged everyone who could to go, and because I’ve been trying to become less ignorant about how higher education really works (as I’ve often tried to work that out here on this blog).

They’ve put both a video and the PowerPoint from that presentation online here. While it’s not for the easily overwhelmed, it certainly was an eye-opener. For example, when I first saw slide 90 I thought I was seeing things. Now I know I wasn’t. The average 6-year (6-year!!!) graduation for college students nationwide is 55.9%. And that’s 2008 data, almost before the recession.

It’s hard enough to find a job these days with a completed degree. What happens to your life prospects if you take out thousands of dollars in loans and you don’t even finish? At the very least, it puts the high number of people who simply disappear from my survey course in better perspective.

Along those lines, slide 97 offers up the six-year graduation rate at my institution. For some reason, I thought it was in the 60s. I’ll just say that her number pegs it as much, much lower. Since nobody from the administration jumped up to object, I’m guessing she’s right.

I had to leave early, so I don’t know what her solutions to retention were, but I can tell you that as soon as the semester ends I’m going to watch the part of that speech I missed because I think I have a moral obligation to limit the financial wreckage that not finishing college practically guarantees. Don’t you think you do too?




One response

2 05 2011
Leslie M-B

Upon arrival here at Boise State, I was shocked to discover the 6-year graduation rate is 26 percent–but then I learned that number doesn’t include transfer students, and we have a lot of those. I’m not sure what the “real” 6-year graduation rate is. Still, our 4-year graduation rate is really embarrassing–8 percent.

Working with our undergrads (average age: 26) makes me so very grateful that as an undergraduate I didn’t also have to hold down a full-time job and raise kids. I don’t know how some of my students finish individual courses, let alone an entire degree.

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