How to improve College Graduation Rate
College education comes with various benefits. The higher chances of securing a job upon graduation emerge top of the list. Graduate workers comprise a large portion of the American workforce. Moreover, the overall economic and civic growth of the country is improved by the intellectual expertise gained through college education (Velez, 2014). Children with parents who have a degree also have a higher likelihood of acquiring college education themselves. Despite all these advantages, graduation rates remain low, and has been decreasing over the years.
In order to improve college graduation rate, we need to focus on four elements that support the education environment. First, we need to tackle the high cost of education that has seen students bogged down with huge student loans. Second, we need to tailor courses to match the student strengths and provide clear course modules that are focused towards providing meaningful content. All these need to be done while providing clear guidance and counseling to the student. Finally, monitoring performance and providing alternative social interaction platforms to allow the students, lectures, and advisors to interact and share information in order to identify students experiencing challenges and remedy the situation.
Significance of the Problem
College completion rate refers to the proportion of students starting as freshmen in a four-year institution and graduate within five years. It is also referred to as college education attainment rate. College education attainment had been on a steady increase throughout the years up to 1990. This was then followed by modest increases in the years proceeding 1990s and heading into 2000s. College completion rate in was at 52.8 percent in 1986 while in the year 2003, it was at 41.3 percent for public bachelors’ conferring institutions (Martin, 2005).
In the year 2006, the United States ranked 10th in its tertiary attainment rate. This drop is quite critical when compared to earlier years. It was ranked 5th in the year 2001 and 3rd in 1998 (William, Mathew & Michael, 2009). In recent years, intake into college has increased. However, this rise does not match the rate of graduation at the end of the course period. This indicates that the rate of dropping out has been increasing at a higher rate than the increase in intake. At a public four-year institution, only 52.4 percent graduate within a span of six years of starting their first year (Velez, 2014). The rest drop out along the way or take a longer period to complete the degree. This trend is more alarming if we consider engineering and science courses.
The most significant question is understanding the reasons educational attainment has stagnated for several years. Government and state initiatives have been undertaken to address this trend, without addressing the impediments to education completion. President Barack Obama recently launched an ambitious program stating that by the year 2020, the United States will once again have the highest number of college graduates in the world (Velez, 2014). This called for an evaluation into the impediments to college completion rate. These impediments can only be addressed by looking at what causes students to drop out from college
Recommendation to Solve the Problem
One major impediment to college completion is too much choice and little guidance. Students sometimes join programs that they have no interest in due to peer pressure, or because a friend is doing the same or the parents insisted on it. At one point, they realize that they do not have what it takes to complete the course, and begin missing classes, assignments, and exams. They lose a lot of time, which discourages and depresses them, leading to them finally dropping out of college. One method of remedying this is providing personal advice to the students in colleges starting from admission. The colleges can come up with a program of tracking student schedules, patterns, and milestones. Social media has become a key player in the modern development of young people including the students. Colleges should create student social interaction forums on platforms such as twitter and Facebook. Then assign each student to an advisor, who will conduct follow up to understand how the student is proceeding. The student should also hold regular discussions with the advisor, who can also review the career choice and advice on the program that best suit the student’s strengths. All these initiatives, if tailored along with the provision of a full range of academic support services can help engage and retain students.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the array of courses that are offered to students. Colleges need to evaluate programs that have a higher number of students drop out. They need to improve the program coherence and redesign the implementation. There is need for a seamless link between academics, professional growth and career aspirations. We have non-examinable courses that not only have no significance to the career choices available to the student, but also offer no professional development in the field of study. These courses need to be evaluated and weeded out to improve the program, and help focus on areas that have a better significance in the career development of the student.
The cost of college education is another impediment to the completion of colleges. The balance of cost versus revenue is what determines whether the institution can continue existing. Colleges have seen the revenue stream from tuition and fees increase significantly over the years. In the year 1999, public higher education sector drew 18.5 percent of their revenue from fees and tuition. This was up 5.6 percent in comparison to the 12.9 percent witnessed in the year 1980. Federal, state and local government funding dropped from 62.1 percent to 50.5 percent during the same period (Martin, 2005). This is an indication of a slowdown in government funding for colleges, which is being countered by increasing tuition and other fees. The government needs to devise methods that can help to provide cheap education especially in community colleges. Community colleges need more financing from the state governments. The financing arrangement should be used to offer free tuition or scholarships to needy and disciplined students, and evaluating measures that they can put in place to contain the spiraling costs of college education.
Self-knowledge is the key to success in academics, career, and professional growth. It is time colleges invested time and money in helping students identify who they are and what they want, before embarking on imparting the knowledge and skills that come with a formal college education. The college programs also need to be evaluated to focus on areas that impart critical skills and do away with redundant programs that further dissuade the students from pursuing these college programs. It is also imperative for the government and other relevant bodies to review the cost of college education and introduce measures to make it affordable to needy students, especially in community colleges. Finally, colleges need to monitor the programs they offer and tailor them to fit the needs of the students, and the market.
Martin, R. E. (2005). Cost control, college access, and competition in higher education. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Velez, E. D. (2014). America’s College Drop-Out Epidemic: Understanding the College Drop-Out Population. American Institutes for Research, (CALDER Working Paper No. 109).
William. G B, Mathew. M C., & Michael S. McPherson. (2009). Crossing the Finish Line: Completing college at America’s public universities. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.