Here, in Part 4 of this blog series, I will cover one last unnerving sub-plot in the story of US colleges.
Little data on college outcomes is collected or published by colleges themselves, by the governments that fund them, or by the accreditation agencies that protect them.
And what good data is available – on graduation rates, on employers’ view of the job readiness of graduates, and on students’ self-reported satisfaction with college – is discouraging.
Other Posts in this Series
- College 101: The Syllabus (Part 1 of 5)
- College 101: Soaring Student Enrollment in a Fixed Set of Accredited Colleges (Part 2 of 5)
- College 101: Government Subsidies and Related College Price Inflation (Part 3 of 5)
- College 101: Worrisome and Sparse Data on College Outcomes (Part 4 of 5)
- College 101: A Call for New Colleges (Part 5 of 5)
A. Graduation Rates at 4-Year Colleges
The majority of students who enroll in US colleges do not graduate and a large majority of certain segments of college students (students of color, students from low income households, and students at 2-year colleges) do not graduate.
Consider 4-year colleges first.
4-year colleges enroll approximately 13 million students and account for 66% of US college students (40% in public 4-year colleges and 26% in private 4-year colleges).
Across these 4-year colleges, a mere 40% of students graduate in four years, and only 60% graduate in 6 years.
These average graduation rates in 4-year colleges – as low as they are -- mask far lower and more alarming graduation rates among students of color.
For example, only 21% of African-American students who enroll in a 4-year college graduate within 4 years.
Overall graduation rates in 4-year colleges also cover up far lower graduation rates among low income students.
For example, the 6-year graduation rate in 4-year colleges for students in the lowest income quartile is 32% lower than the analogous graduation rate for students in the top income quartile.
A similar income-related graduation rate gap exists between students who qualify for a Pell grant and students who do not.
Graduation rates at 4-year colleges also vary considerably by college type. For example, only 18% of entrants to private, for-profit colleges – which enroll approximately 10% of all 4-year college students – graduate in four years.
B. Graduation Rates at 2-Year Colleges
As worrisome as the graduation picture is at 4-year colleges, it worsens at 2-year colleges, almost all of which are publicly run and which educate about one-third of US college students.
Notably, only 28% of students who enrolled in a 2-year college in 2011 graduated within 3 years.
Predictably and regrettably, 2-year colleges fare even worse with students of color and students from low income households.