Report: Colleges must boost completion rates, but not with easier admissions or course work
- A detailed new report authored by several education researchers encourages higher education leaders to improve the nation’s 50% college completion level, but warns that they should make changes carefully to avoid encouraging colleges to water down content or admitting students who aren’t college ready.
- Two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Third Way, noted that while college value is important and discussed frequently, the issue of completion should be given higher priority because of the cost of non-completion, both to students who don’t finish and to taxpayers, who provide some $130 million in grants and loans, a large portion of which goes toward funding dropouts.
- Chapters in the report cover public policy changes that could help, institutional practices that would thoughtfully encourage retention and improvements to K-12 education that could play a role, among other strategies.
In one chapter, authors describe more than 600 “failure factories” that graduate less than a third of their students in six years. They also highlight successful colleges, explaining how they have used comprehensive supports for struggling students, emergency grants to upperclassman with financial need and data to better guide student choices.
Another section recommends creative approaches to attend to “psychological factors—including a student’s mindset, goals, and motives.” It suggests providing real world experiences in the classroom and online modules that motivate students. That author warns that such programs should be customized to meet needs of the students and the university, and their success should be measured with care.
There have been a variety of other recommendations about how higher education leaders can improve retention, from using mobile apps and comprehensive support services to applying big data to the problem. Others suggest that adult learners or part-time students, who have a completion rate of about 45%, should be the focus.
There has also been an effort to more carefully consider the “character” of students and other personal traits as one way to determine those who will succeed and more thoroughly find what will help them.
- American Enterprise Institute Elevating college completion