Monday, January 03, 2011

Grading schools on graduation

Grading Schools on Graduation: A study of 1668 Universities and Colleges Graduation, Attrition and Revenue Loses from Attrition

Sixty-eight percent of four-year colleges and universities I studied in the US receive a failing grade on retention and graduation. Sixteen percent would just be scratching by with a grade of D. No wonder we are starting to fall behind other countries in the number of college graduates.  Only 309 colleges and universities receive a passing grade of C and above. Eighty-four percent of our colleges and universities are failing in their job to graduate students. The same eighty-four percent are still getting government aid to such as Pell Grants to stay open and fail. These schools are wasting the dreams and resources of the students they attract as well as the money from the federal government.

If the 1669 colleges and universities in this study were graded as they grade students on an A through F scale with an A equal to a graduation rate of 90% or more; B 80-90%; C 70-80%;D60-70% and any graduation rate under 50% equal to an F the breakdown would be
43 A’s
101 B’s
165 C’s
259 D’s and
1132 F’s.

What strikes as significant is not merely the massive amount of money colleges and universities lose from attrition and the equally horrendous losses of students and families but that schools that graduate an average of less than 40% of entering students can attract new enrollment at all. Moreover, it is hard to understand that four-year colleges and universities that graduate less than 20% of an entering class even over a span of six years can remain at all attractive to potential students and remain in business. Furthermore, federal funds continue to support schools that cannot retain and graduate more than 20% of their students.

In fact, colleges and universities graduating less than 20% of their classes in six-years cost the federal government $803,368,154 for the students who dropped out in 2009-10.1  They cost their students and their families much more financially and in their dreams and goals in life.

Should colleges that cannot retain and graduate less than 20% of their students receive public support at all? Should ones that cannot retain and graduate 30%, receive support? Forty percent?

It may be argued that the students not the schools receive support in the form of Pell Grants for example but if it were not for the certification of these schools to receive federal funds students could not receive the Grants at these schools. They would have to take their money elsewhere – to a college or university that has higher six-year graduation rate. Without federal funds, colleges with failing graduation rates would likely close or have to find ways to fund themselves. These would be private, public and for-profit schools. It is likely that we would all be better off if they did. Millions if not billions of dollars would be saved by the federal government that supported all the schools in the study. Public schools that could not survive could save states much needed money. And for-profits that closed would just penalize stock holders or owners who likely deserve to be penalized for supporting failing schools to make a profit off the system.

Some Immediate Observations
It is interesting to note that of the 43 schools that graduate 90% and more of an entering class, only three are public institutions:
University of Virginia
University of California – Los Angeles and
The College of William and Mary.
The other 40 are all private schools.

Of the top 43 institutions with an average 6-year graduation rate higher than 90%, most are “name brand schools” except for two small unbranded private colleges: Apex School of Theology (NC)  and Sinte Gleska University (SD).

Of the 43 lowest graduation schools, all with a graduation rate less than11%, 20 are private schools, 16 for-profit and 7 public institutions. One is a theologically-oriented school and one a tribal college.

No apparent patterns come out of the study related to explaining attrition such as size of school; public, private or for profit; costs; Carnegie level. What is apparent however is that every school in the study lost significant sums of money from attrition.  This is revenue that could have been captured in part to help during a time of fiscal uncertainty and contraction but was not.

To get a copy of the full report with tables of the 1668 colleges and universities, their graduation, attrition and money lost, just request one at or call me at 413.219.6939 for more details.

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