When colleges fail to graduate students…

I’ve purposely titled this post “When colleges fail to graduate students…” to prompt you to think about the notions underlying this wording, which we hear and read in the media often… Do colleges MAKE students graduate (or not graduate)? What role do students play in their own collegiate success or failure? There’s not easy answer to this question, but this article in the NY Times argues that colleges, like all organizations, have unique cultures, and sometimes, these cultures are more or less supportive of graduation:

[Under-matching] refers to students who choose not to attend the best college they can get into. They instead go to a less selective one, perhaps one that’s closer to home or, given the torturous financial aid process, less expensive.

About half of low-income students with a high school grade-point average of at least 3.5 and an SAT score of at least 1,200 do not attend the best college they could have. Many don’t even apply. Some apply but don’t enroll. “I was really astonished by the degree to which presumptively well-qualified students from poor families under-matched,” Mr. Bowen told me.

They could have been admitted to Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus (graduation rate: 88 percent, according to College Results Online) or Michigan State (74 percent), but they went, say, to Eastern Michigan (39 percent) or Western Michigan (54 percent). If they graduate, it would be hard to get upset about their choice. But large numbers do not…

In effect, well-off students — many of whom will graduate no matter where they go — attend the colleges that do the best job of producing graduates. These are the places where many students live on campus (which raises graduation rates) and graduation is the norm. Meanwhile, lower-income students — even when they are better qualified — often go to colleges that excel in producing dropouts.

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One response to “When colleges fail to graduate students…

  1. This is an interesting discussion…As a Western Michigan University graduate, I noticed that WMU does a great job of producing graduates, but whether or not those students deserve their degree is debatable. Although I chose to attend WMU when I could have attended MSU, I worked hard to earn my degree. I put in the time and effort required to make the most of my college experience, and appreciate the education I received. I worked hard to make myself the best teacher I could be and I truly earned my degree. Yet, I know of several students that were able to skate through their courses, put in less than half the effort I did, “cry” to the right people when professors tried to fail them for not completing requirements, and STILL graduate with the same degree I did. Why should these students drop out? I learned that anyone can receive a degree from these smaller universities because, while they might have high standards for students like me that are willing to put in the work, they do not hold all students to the same standards.