The Completion Shortfall
Access without success is an empty promise…and a missed opportunity with economic consequences.
Americans can take pride in the great progress made in ensuring access to college: More than 70% of our young people start some kind of advanced training or education within two years of receiving their high school diplomas.
Yet for too many, the journey ends long before graduation day. They become college dropouts.
- Just over half of students who start 4-year bachelor’s degree programs full-time finish – in six years. [Source]
- Fewer than three out of ten students who start at community colleges full-time graduate with an associate degree in three years. [Source]
As a result, America is slipping: behind our global competitors – and, even more alarming, between generations.
- Once first in the world, America now ranks 10th in the percentage of young adults with a college degree. [Source]
- For the first time in our history, the current generation of college-age Americans will be less educated than their parents’ generation – unless things change quickly. [Source]
The consequences of falling short of college completion are not only significant for once promising students, but are severe for states and our country.
- In the current recession, unemployment rates are twice as high for those with just a high school diploma (10.8%) compared to those with a bachelor's degree or higher (4.9%). [Source]
- Increases in the proportion of a region's population with a bachelor's degree result in wage increases for all workers in the region, regardless of education level. [Source]
Why is America falling short?
To name only a few of the many reasons: inadequate academic preparation, poorly designed and delivered remediation, broken credit transfer policies, confusing financial aid programs, a culture that rewards enrollment instead of completion, and a system too often out of touch with the needs of the today’s college student.
- The age-old American ideal of college – going full-time and living on campus with help from Mom and Dad– represents only a quarter of today’s students. [Source]
- Most community college students work more than 20 hours per week, and many juggle family responsibilities at the same time. Yet attending part-time greatly diminishes the chance that students will ever earn a credential. [Source]
By sharing responsibility for success, we can turn broken dreams and missed opportunities into college graduates and economic success.
- Students must work hard, make good choices, and stick with it.
- Colleges and universities must make graduation, not head counts, their measure of success. And they must align to the needs of today’s students.
- States must knock down obstacles, across entire educational systems, that unnecessarily block paths to college completion – and they must encourage and hold accountable institutions and students for measurable progress.