Kid Goes To College Two Years, Doesn't Finish. Success or Failure?

A friend used to sneak me into Harvard Business School's gym to play basketball. There was a lanky three point shooter there, Mike Greenstone, who basically never missed. He was a Bulls fan, so picture a Steve Kerr type.

Turns out Greenstone is an accomplished M.I.T. scholar. 

1. He recently argued that:

Even those who enroll in a two- or four-year program but do not attain a degree also experience substantial increases in earnings. On average, these individuals made about $8,000 per year more than those with just a high school diploma. Over a lifetime, this results in over $100,000 more in earnings.

Read it here

This is important for college-prep charter schools serving low-income students.  Obviously we want to maximize our college grads.  But are the college drop-outs "failures"? 

Mike's is a sophisticated analysis that considers opportunity costs, debt from tuition, etc. 

Required reading. 

2. Puzzle 2: Why do poorer kids do worse than rich kids academically? 

Reasons include:

a. Well, there is stuff that cash can buy.  Better house (better school district), tutoring, books, camp, nutrition, etc. 

b. And then there is the fact wealth correlates to some extent with education level: a rich kid is likely to be in house with "automatic" advantages in terms of vocab level, cause-and-effect questioning, etc. 

Presumably richer families always bought more "education" than poorer families.  And they've always had more opportunity to choose to spend more direct time with their kids.

But are those gaps growing or shrinking?  Enter Greenstone. 

He has a new paper, which the Boston Globe wrote about today.  

High-income families are spending more time and money than ever on their children’s education, further widening the gulf between rich and poor students, according to a new report.

High-income families have always invested more in education, but they now spend seven times more a year on average than a low-income family, up from four times in the 1970s, according to the report, coauthored by MIT economics professor Michael Greenstone. These families now spend as much as $9,000 annually on private tutoring, SAT prep courses, computers, and other activities, compared with about $1,300 for low-income families.

The advantages that money can buy on tests and college applications have become so great that they threaten to undermine the American ideal of education as the great leveler that enables anyone who works hard to succeed, regardless of income level, the report said.

In a knowledge-based economy that increasingly rewards education and skill, the report added, these growing educational disparities could further widen the income gap between rich and poor.

“The living standard in our country depends critically on getting more people to go to college,” said Greenstone, who is also the director at the Hamilton Project, the Washington think tank that issued the report. “The most concerning thing is that there are initial signs that inequality is starting to bleed into social mobility. And social mobility is at the heart of the American experience.”

We noticed this early on at Match.  Our response was to try to bring the most critical advantage -- 1-on-1 tutoring -- to all our students in very high doses. 

Read the whole report here