- Nationally, six-year graduation rates for first-time college enrollees rose to 56.9% from 54.8%, according to the National Student Clearinghouse’s annual report on college completion rates.
- The 2.1% bump lifts graduation rates above the pre-recession high of 56.1% and represents about 48,000 more degree earners.
- Disparities still remain along racial lines, with Black and Hispanic students lagging behind their white and Asian peers.
Despite its use as a basic measure of national success, educators disagree about what college completion rates actually say about the quality of education students are receiving. Several higher education experts noted in The Chronicle of Higher Education that institutional completion rates rise and fall with the quality of student. That is to say if learners come from a poor, middle class or rich family. the students selected to enroll rather than the ability of institutions deliver a good education. Moreover, it doesn’t shed light on what students have learned.
A more valuable barometer of education quality maybe the achievements of the most at-risk students who, because of their fragile financial situation, require more support to graduate. Low-income and disadvantaged students perform well at more selective schools, but top private and public schools are the least likely to enroll low-income students. According to recent New America report, colleges overall are enrolling fewer students from low-income families.