Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Our Frightening Graduation Statistics

Following publication of my article America’s Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor’s Degree, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I received a fat packet from a Harry Stille, who, after retiring from the South Carolina legislature, started the Higher Education Policy Center.

That packet contained a variety of statistics on the four-year colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. I was particularly saddened to see that, except for UC Berkeley, which attracts an unusually high-performing student body, the graduation rates, especially at the public colleges, is frighteningly low.

Of course, the term “four-year” college is a misnomer. Most students at such institutions don’t graduate in four years … if at all. Here are the six-year graduation rates for these colleges and their students’ unbelievably low 25%ile SAT score.

San Francisco State: 880 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years.
Cal State East Bay: 770 SAT, 43 percent graduate in six years.
San Jose State: 860 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years
Sacramento State: 840 SAT, 40 percent graduate in six years.

Even sadder, the true numbers are probably even worse. Those numbers were obtained by calculating the average of the numbers submitted to the U.S. News & World Report, Barron’s, Peterson’s, and Newsweek college guides. Many colleges do not submit data on all their students. For example, last I checked (a few years ago, admittedly) UC-Berkeley reports the results only for “regularly admitted freshmen.” That excluded the 6 percent who were admitted as “special admits.” I also know that other institutions exclude groups of low-performing students.

Four-year colleges must stop their obsession with making more money no matter what. They admit, every year, hundreds of thousands of students with poor high school records, and most of them suffer the terror of being clueless in their classes, accumulating a mountain of debt, little learning, and the enormous opportunity cost of what they could have been learning and accomplishing in an apprenticeship program, community college, at the elbow of an entrepreneur, or yes, even in the media-reviled military.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of your posts that was first posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog. There you made an interesting comment: what would these Chronicle responders, many of which are vigorously defending the status quo, do if the underprepared student was their own child?

Doesn't the average parent want what's best for their child? If you were a college graduate and/or esteemed employee and your child wasn't college material, would you want what's best for your child, even if you knew in your heart that meant not following in your collegiate footsteps, or would you still push college on your child?

The people that claim to interact with these students all the time and really know what it's like need to start acting like it. They should do for these students they say they care about just as they would for their own children. At least, as much as they are able.

Some of these students don't have a caring parent or mentor looking out for them when they need it the most, and some of these students, even though they're technically adults, still aren't sure what to do next and need advice on what to do next. If all they continue to hear is "degree, degree, degree," is there any reason to believe that these statistics and colleges will improve?


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