Thursday, May 27, 2004

Education's input-output table 

A new report on retention rates and graduation rates in college from the Education Trust indicates that while we're putting more students in the top of the higher ed machine, we're not getting that much more out.
The good news is that more students in the United States are entering two- and four-year institutions than ever before; enrollment has increased from less than half in 1975 to almost two thirds in 2001. The biggest gains among entering freshmen are coming from groups that have been traditionally left behind, female and low-income students. When we extend the time-frame to look at college enrollment to the first eight years out of high school, we find that by the 1990s, four out of five on-time high school graduates had enrolled in some form of higher education.

Unfortunately, while enrollment has increased, graduation rates have not increased at the same rate. In fact, many institutions lose one out of every four students they enroll in the freshman year alone. When looking at six-year graduation rates for four-year colleges and universities, the data shows that barely six out of ten (63%) first-time full-time degree-seeking college freshmen graduate within six years. While the overall graduation rates are low for all students, they are particularly low for minority and low-income students: only 46% of African American, 47% of Latino, and 54% of low-income first-time full-time freshmen are graduating within six years.

Among other institutions, the University of Northern Iowa comes in for praise, with a six-year graduation rate of 67% compared to 48% for peer institutions.

Four-year rates at SCSU are in the low teens, and the last six-year graduation data I saw for here was a bit under 40%. We emphasize retention, but retention for its own sake is pointless. Rather than folks wondering if we're spending too much money, shouldn't they ask why we don't meet UNI's performance? And are we even aspiring to this? Looking at our KPIs, it doesn't appear so.