College 101: Outcomes in the College Establishment (Part 4 of 5)

Here, in Part 4 of this blog series, I will cover one last unnerving sub-plot in the story of US colleges.

A small and unchanging set of incumbent US colleges not only control enrollment (Part 2) and large public subsidies (Part 3). They also dodge accountability.

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.



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.

 
National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

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. 

 

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

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.

 

 
Note: % of College Students Who Enrolled in College in 2003-2004 who Graduated by 2009 National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

Note: % of College Students Who Enrolled in College in 2003-2004 who Graduated by 2009

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

Education Trust, The Pell Partnership

Education Trust, The Pell Partnership

 

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.

 
National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics