Graduation or Completion Rate as a Success Rate for the Community Colleges of CUNY
Philip A. Pecorino
Queensborough Community College, CUNY
How does one measure the success or failure of a community college? Presumably there should be some measure of success or of failure. But just what is it? At this time it appears that the one measure that is in the public awareness and the one measure that funding sources appear to value and that is the graduation rate. But particularly in the case of a community college this measure is an incomplete measure and one that fails to capture or reveal what community colleges are doing and their value for the communities they serve. Whatever may be the current interest or focus of the public and of policymakers and funding sources the true story of what goes on at community colleges needs to be told along with, what appears to be the politically necessary, reports of graduation rates.
The public perception of the community college may focus on the graduation rate but that is a most unfortunate focus. Public perception is important. The image the community college presents to the public is linked to the support they can hope to gain from that public, but, if and when the public image is focused on that single measure of the graduation rate, then the true story is lost. The true story of what community colleges are about and what they do and how well they do it is a much better story, a more complete picture and a story that needs to be presented. One thing is fairly clear for anyone honestly examining what community colleges do and that is that the success rate of a community college is not its graduation rate.
Success for a community college can only be gauged by a complete measure and such a measure would take into its accounting each and every student. Then success might be seen as measured in terms of how well each and every student achieves the academic objective that they enter the college to achieve. Community colleges should count as a "success" each and every student who accomplished what they entered the college to accomplish. That may range from a few classes, some exploratory experiences, a certificate, a degree, or some classes in preparation to transfer without a degree. So each student who completes their own plan of study is a success for the college. It is the completion rate that is the more accurate measure of community college success.
An important part and a major part of the success of a community college is with all those students who entered the college and matriculated in order to earn an associate degree. Given their full or part time status and their full or part time employment status their completion of an association degree program in 2 to 10 years is part of the success story. Targeting such students who want an associate degree for attention in an effort to raise the graduation rate is a worthwhile endeavor and to be applauded. Any campaign for success would include assisting such people to achieve their academic objective to complete an associate degree. However, at the same time efforts should be directed towards gathering the data that records how well fared the many students who do not genuinely intend to complete an associate degree at a CUNY Community College. Many students at a CUNY community college enter the college to complete an associate degree. This is true to be sure. It is particularly true of those seeking an Applied Associate in Arts degree in some professional or technical area.
But, many students at a CUNY community college enter the college and matriculate but do not intend to complete an associate degree. This is particularly true of those in the Associate of Arts and Associate in Sciences degree programs. Many students at a CUNY community college enter for other purposes. Many who enter had some other CUNY unit as their preference and a baccalaureate program as their goal but their circumstances were such that they were placed at a community college. Part of the every day reality at a community college in CUNY that causes some people difficulty -but none for the faculty who teach- is that there are many students who matriculate at a community college with no intention of completing the associate degree in which they have matriculated. Why would students who only want to take a few classes and not earn a degree matriculate? Why would students who only want to take a few classes and then transfer without earning an associate degree matriculate at the community college? The answers are known to both the students and to any of the faculty, advisors or counselors who get to know them. There are no real secrets about this. The cases can be recorded for the purposes of gathering the data for the assessment of the institution utilizing the complete measure in order to produce an accurate picture and the whole story.
For the students who matriculate with no real intention of completing an associate degree their actual intention needs to be captured and then if they achieved it their case is one of success for the community college. Principle among such now hidden or denied cases are the many students who wanted to take a few classes at the community college in preparation for their transfer to a college with four year programs: baccalaureate programs. Their intention upon entry into the community college was to get not an associate degree but a baccalaureate degree. Their intention was to transfer as soon as possible. Concerning such folks the following is known:
CUNY faculty and staff who care about such students should advise and counsel them to remain and complete the two year degree before transferring on as it is in most cases in their interest to do so but for those who remain firm in their academic resole to transfer and then they do so, well for the community college that provided those classes that facilitated the acceptance into and transfer into a baccalaureate degree that is a part of the success story of the community college. Why ? Because the community colleges enable those students seeking early transfer to do just what those students had as their academic goal.
If they enter with the intention of transferring as soon as possible into a four year program at another CUNY unit and they achieve an academic record at the community college that enables them to do so then such cases are also cases of success for the community college. As long as there is no CUNY regulation that prohibits such early transfers they will continue and continue in significant numbers. A campaign to improve the record of success at community colleges should consider such cases as success or if the campaign for success is primarily intended to increase the graduation rates at the community colleges then a CUNY policy prohibiting early transfer would assist in that effort more than any other single measure.
Other cases of success include those who are non-matriculated and when they complete the few classes they entered in order to take and complete that should accurately be recorded as part of the complete story of the performance of the community college and as part of its success story. There are quite a few people who come to a community college looking to take a few classes and have no intention of completing a degree or certificate program. Often their motives are related to their employment. Some of them learn that by matriculating into a program they are eligible for more financial aid from various sources and so they do claim that. If they complete the classes that they came to the college to take they should be counted as successes. e.g, teachers looking to enhance their professional status and salary by earning a master's degree plus 30 credits, candidates for police and fire agencies looking to compile 30 or 60 college credits, people employed in business that will support their education in general or in specific areas, e.g., business and accounting, medical office and labs, electronics and computer studies, etc…
There are also a smaller group of people who come to take a few classes for personal development or enrichment. They do. They are pleased. They are also part of the community college true success story.
The complete measure success rate of a community college is far above the graduation rate for 2 or 5 or 6 or even 10 years. It is the completion rate and not the graduation rate that is the more complete measure of the success of community colleges.
COMPLETION RATE AS SUCCESS RATE
The use of graduation rates is not the best measure of the success of a college and certainly not for a community college. It is a task for CUNY to establish a more accurate measure of the success of its community colleges in order to improve the public image of CUNY that would be of great assistance in its efforts to secure greater financial support. The low graduation rates that are reported may be contributing to the decreasing level of public support for public higher education.
To use the one calculable measure used as a criteria by which to assay the success of community colleges, the graduation rate, is both misleading and flawed as it is inaccurate. It is misleading because it does not consider the actual nature of community colleges and their mission and it is faulted because the measure considers all those who “drop out” as not completing their degrees when they may have moved on to another college to do so or never intended to get a degree from the community college in the first place.
Community Colleges have a part of their mission purposes other than the conferring of associate degrees. People enter community colleges with purposes other than to obtain a terminal or transfer associate degree. Among those goals or purposes are:
1) to take two accounting classes
related to their work
Community colleges have a very high proportion of those people who enter the college “drop out” or fail to persist after two semesters. The exact reasons for their departure and the proportions of each reason are yet to be accurately determined. One thing is certain however and that is that the departures are not simply because people have failed to complete their remediation and have decided not to continue their education. Indeed, the truth might be that a large portion of the departed are so because they have succeeded in accomplishing what they entered the community college to accomplish.
Successful completion rate would measure those who complete the goals with which they entered the community college to achieve:
A: within the time limit they set for
While graduation rates from community colleges are dismally low in absolute terms CUNY Community colleges are not appreciably different form the national norm.
CUNY Rates: http://hawk.cuny.edu
The completion rate once determined is likely to be quite higher. Should the completion rate (A) prove to be 50% or more then the Mayor and City Council would be operating against a background in which the public would have a significantly more accurate and more positive appraisal of the role of CUNY community colleges in the life of New York City.
The greater the public perception is of CUNY the more likely there will be public support for CUNY.
What would be considered as a failure for a community college? It is not simply all those cases of people who did not complete their academic objectives. Why not? The college can not be held accountable for that over which it has no control or reasonable expectation of control or influence. Students "drop out" or "stop out" for a variety of reasons: illness, death, incarceration, family relocation, employment, family responsibilities...
The cases that ought to be recorded as failures for the community college are those cases where students could have made progress towards their academic goals but did not do so due to the failure of the college to provide the needed support or preparations for the success of those students. This would apply only to those cases where the college had the resources needed but did not make them available or did not identify or respond to the students' need for them.
It is the responsibility of the college to properly assess each student's preparedness for success and then to make available what is needed for that success within the available resources of the college. If such resources as are needed are not available the college is responsible to make this know to the students and to the sources of support for the college.
A CUNY CAMPAIGN FOR SUCCESS
A CUNY wide "Campaign for Success" that focuses on one measure of success would be a "one size fits all" approach that does a tremendous disservice to what the CUNY community colleges are here to do because:
CUNY should do all that it possibly can can to raise graduation rates. But CUNY should not completely capitulate to the current popular conceptions . If it has any worth at all as an academic institution, CUNY is about education and knowledge and truth. CUNY should educate the public by providing the true story of what community colleges in CUNY are doing and how well they do it. CUNY community colleges have success rates that are far greater than their graduation rates. Graduation rates are part of the success rate but just that, a part and not the whole.
Below are a set of articles related to graduation and success rates at colleges the measures and the availability and security of information .
Food for thought
Cliff Adelman, senior researcher for the Department of
Education has released a report describing the methodology for
calculating graduation rates. In a time when transfers among schools
are higher than ever, individual students are counted the same as "drop
outs" if they do not graduate from the school at which they matriculated
as freshmen. Should be an interesting debate in the reauthorization of
the Higher Education Act as colleges and universities are required to be
more accountable for "countable" outcomes, such as graduation rates. At
the same time, there are very real problems with student "persistence."
The increasing cost of higher education, the relatively low level of
state support for higher education, and the large accumulation of student
debt are major factors for many students as they consider whether to
continue toward a four year degree.
Here is an interesting article of research directed by the Community College Research Center (Columbia Univ.) and funded by the Lumina Foundation. Thus, it has the appropriate credentials for some who need to see them in order to seriously consider some rather basic points about what we do here and what we experience here. I am particularly interested in the passage where it indicates that community colleges should encourages colleges to encourage students to continue their education and set higher goals.
The educational effectiveness of community colleges is under new scrutiny as a result of both a federal government focus on accountability of higher education institutions and greater competition for the state funds traditionally directed to the colleges. Current convention is to use Student Right-to-Know (SRK) data as the measure of a college's effectiveness, which indicates that completion rates are very low for community colleges overall. Indeed, more than half the students who enroll eventually leave without a credential. But the value of SRK data as appropriate measures for outcome-based accountability is disputed by college advocates, who assert that they are not accurate reflections of student success for a variety of reasons.read more at: http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/Publication.asp?UID=336
Graduation Rates, Student Goals, and
Measuring Community College Effectiveness
The judgment about the effectiveness of community colleges depends, to some extent, on an assessment of the meaning of student goals. Research clearly shows that low-income students have lower educational aspirations, but whether colleges have a responsibility to encourage those students to be more ambitious depends on the type of students and concreteness of their goals. It is one thing to accept the assertion of adult full-time workers who return to college for job advancement that they are there to learn “job skills.” We should be less willing, however, to accept such limited goals from low-income students, of any age, who have had little success in school and lack confidence in their abilities or knowledge about what they need to do to progress.
There are also students who have ambitious long-term goals, yet do not progress very far toward them, and it can be argued that colleges should help them realize those goals. As long as there are considerable differences in expectations and achievement among the different income and racial and ethnic student groups, colleges should vigorously strive to reduce those gaps.
There is no
question that community colleges
difficulties as they serve students with
economic, social, and academic challenges, and
resources per student to draw on than other
postsecondary institutions. Among the public policies that could promote
higher graduation rates are
while it is important to work for broader
and to recognize that there are limits to
can do, it is a fact that some colleges have
graduation rates than others and perform better on a
But in American higher education, curious things happen with such lists — lists that say, “these colleges are similar, and they are different from those colleges.” When some groupings are populated by institutions of national prominence (let’s admit it, they have much in common), and those groupings are numbered “I,” it doesn’t take long for a research-oriented classification system to look like a ranking. Add to the mix the periodic revision of the classification, and the genie is out of the bottle: Senior administrators searching for metrics of progress and success, as well as ways to win more state funding and alumni support, recruit the best talent, and perhaps advance their own careers along the way, scrutinize the architecture of the lists to ask, “How can we move up?” And the higher education press can tell a story of institutions in ascendance and falling behind, of winners and losers.
The 1973 edition of the Carnegie Classification had four sets of institutions that were subdivided into “I” and “II,” and only two of the four “I” lists contained high-status institutions. So not all joined the frenzy to move up. But enough did that the classification was frequently identified as an object of institutional strategy — the research tool had become an unintended policy lever. Nowhere was this more evident than among the group that was most finely differentiated in the original classification, doctorate-granting universities.
As this process unfolded over the course of four classification revisions, some truly ridiculous claims were made as colleges and universities sought to spin their new “Carnegie rankings.” They boasted that Carnegie had placed them among the top 4 or 6 percent of colleges and universities nationwide, asserting by implication that all research universities are superior to all comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. They proclaimed that overnight, the degrees of their graduates had become more valuable. When U.S. News repackaged the classification in its rankings, using terms like “national universities” and “national liberal arts colleges,” and a college’s classification determined not only its U.S. News label but the colleges and universities it would be compared with, it focused the mind at many institutions whose classification had not previously been a subject of discussion or concern.
Over the years, many voiced concerns over the classification’s impact, calling for various changes. Some charged that it rewarded institutions for prioritizing research over teaching. Some said it failed to adequately address the teaching and service functions. Some wanted to use the classification strategically to shape institutional behavior. In addition to the tournament mentality that had grown up around parts of the Carnegie Classification, higher education itself became more complex. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of accredited, degree-granting institutions grew from about 2,800 to nearly 4,000. The student population and patterns of participation changed, as well. And yet the analytic framework chosen by the Carnegie Commission in 1970 remained the predominant way to characterize similarity and difference among colleges and universities (with periodic changes to criteria and labels).
So starting in the late 1990s, the Carnegie Foundation began thinking about overhauling the classification system. We wanted to identify and remedy blind spots in the classification framework, while providing more nuanced and flexible ways to represent the diversity of higher education. An interim update to the basic classification framework was issued in 2000 because the then-current 1994 edition was out of date, and we began a serious effort to develop new tools for examining institutional similarity and difference along several dimensions.
This week, the Carnegie Foundation will release five new classification schemes, each of which offers a different perspective on how institutions resemble or differ from one another (institutions will be classified on each of the new schemes). In December, we will also release a substantially revised version of the basic classification framework. A preliminary version of the five new classifications has been available online for about a month, but preview’s purpose is to identify and correct possible errors in individual classifications; the preview site does not provide category listings. As part of the official release, we will provide a Web-based facility for generating standard and customized classification listings and downloads.
The new classifications are organized around three central questions: What is taught? To whom? and In what setting? A system of several independent and parallel classifications provides different lenses through which to view institutions. By expanding the system in this way, we can take selected attributes that are considered in a limited way in the basic framework and delve more deeply. For example, the basic classification says nothing about undergraduate education for institutions awarding more than a threshold number of master’s or doctoral degrees (and it says fairly little about it for the others). With multiple classifications, we can address undergraduate and graduate education independently. Thus we can classify with respect to the undergraduate program regardless of the extent of graduate education, and look at graduate education in a separate classification. In addition to these two classifications focused on the instructional program (what is taught), two characterize the student population (to whom) and one groups institutions according to size and residential character (in what setting).
Viewing an institution from these multiple perspectives offers a fuller, more textured portrait than is possible with a single classification. Colleges and universities will no longer be characterized on the basis of a single view of what they do. For example, a research university’s “portrait” will reflect not only its commitment to graduate education, but also the nature of its undergraduate program, the characteristics of its undergraduates, the relative size of undergraduate and graduate populations, and the absolute size and residential character of the campus. These are all important dimensions of a complex institution, but all but the first are rendered invisible in the conventional classification.
By addressing selected dimensions of similarity and difference in independent classifications, we can also examine the points of intersection among the different classifications. Which institutions emphasize professional fields at the doctoral level yet emphasize the arts and sciences in their undergraduate education? Which ones emphasize business programs at the master’s level and blend the arts and sciences with occupational/professional training at the undergraduate level? Which ones serve a primarily nonresidential undergraduate student body with an appreciable share who attend part-time? Which exclusively undergraduate institutions serve a highly residential student body but admit an appreciable number of students as transfers?
Starting with the new classifications, users will be able to build customized classifications aligned with specific analytic purposes. This new flexibility also has potential to assist college and university personnel in identifying peer institutions (Which institutions share our classification with respect to undergraduate program, undergraduate profile and size and setting? Which ones have similar undergraduate and graduate program classifications?). A Web-based listing facility will allow users to aggregate within and intersect across classifications to suit their needs.
The new classifications will not solve all the problems of the old classification, and they will make some things harder. The Carnegie Classification has always been based on secondary analysis of empirical data on what institutions do, and this is at once a strength and a limitation. It is a strength because institutions are classified not on the basis of rhetorical assertions about mission, but on actual behavior as revealed in the data. It is a limitation in other respects: not everything that counts can be counted, and empirically based classifications offer a retrospective account of what institutions do. Colleges and universities are always changing, but the classifications provide a time-specific snapshot. Classification using national data is undertaken at a distance, without interviews, site visits, or close reading of institutional documents. The national data can never fully represent an institution’s character or identity, and it’s simply unrealistic to expect it to.
There are also important things that colleges and universities do that are not reflected in national data collections. Two new “elective” classifications — based on voluntary participation — will attempt to incorporate new information on two areas where institutions have special commitments. One of these is outreach and community engagement. This year a diverse group of 14 institutions participated in a pilot project to develop a framework for documenting the range of ways that they engage with community. The results of that work will inform a wider effort for institutions to participate in a new classification for community engagement. The second elective classification, to be developed in 2006, will focus on how institutions seek to analyze, understand, and improve undergraduate education.
The new classifications will complicate how we talk about similarities and differences among institutions as the simple, mutually exclusive terminology of the traditional classification gives way to a more complicated multidimensional framework. But this framework will do more justice to the multifaceted nature of the institutions it seeks to describe. Still more classifications may emerge as well, because the Carnegie Foundation does not hold an exclusive franchise on classifying colleges and universities.
Alexander C. McCormick is a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where he directs the Carnegie Classification project.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
From the issue dated April 1, 2005
Education Department findings do not ease concerns of critics
By KELLY FIELD
The federal government could collect students' Social Security numbers and other individually identifiable data without compromising their privacy, says a new report on a proposed data-collection system that is supported by state colleges but opposed by private institutions.
The report, which the Education Department submitted to Congress in March, concludes that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure the security of data in the administration's proposed "unit record" system.
The Education Department has argued that the proposed system would allow it to measure a college's performance more accurately by generating better information about retention and graduation rates and by enabling it to track transfer students. It would also allow the department, for the first time, to calculate an institution's net price, or what students actually pay after financial aid is taken into account.
The unit-record plan would replace a system in which colleges report data in summary form about total enrollment, student aid, graduation rates, and other measures.
Supporters, including lobbyists for state colleges and universities, say that the report amounts to an endorsement of the president's plan to test the new statistical system on 1,500 campuses next year.
"This puts to rest the privacy issue that some people are using to derail a simple study," said Travis J. Reindl, director of state-policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "It really makes the case that this is worth looking into."
But critics of the plan, including private-college lobbyists, fear that students' personal information could be used for noneducational purposes.
They call the idea that students could be entered into a central database and tracked for the rest of their lives "chilling."
"There is a clear precedent for federal databases being used for purposes for which they were not originally intended," said David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "The statistical people at the Department of Education do not have the political might to keep away all of the political interests who will want this data."
Mr. Warren noted that many colleges were moving away from using Social Security numbers as student identifiers because of the threat to individual privacy.
David S. Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, said his association was "initially quite optimistic" about the president's plan, but decided to withhold its support after hearing concerns about student privacy from member institutions.
The ultimate decision on whether the new system will be adopted rests with Congress, which has to give the Education Department the authority to build the system. That could be done in pending legislation to renew the Higher Education Act, which governs most federal student-aid programs.
Mr. Reindl said the prospects for approval were good, given the recent emphasis on accountability in higher education.
Support Unclear in Congress
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have been relatively quiet on the proposal so far, although Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat who is a member of the education committee, expressed concerns about the plan in November in a letter to Roderick R. Paige, then the secretary of education.
If lawmakers give the go-ahead, the pilot program would require participating colleges to submit to the department "header files" containing each student's name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, race, and gender, along with additional information on course loads and credits, date of degree completion, and financial-aid package.
The files, which would be collected through the existing Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds, would be stored in a permanent database that would not be accessible from the Internet.
Even if security were not a concern, putting the new system into effect would not be easy. According to the report, many institutions would have to upgrade their software, hire new employees to handle the reports, and reconcile varying information systems used by their registrars and institutional-research and financial-aid offices.
The burden would be particularly heavy on small colleges, where there is often only one person in charge of statistical reporting, said James C. Fergerson, director of institutional planning and analysis at Bates College.
The report, "Feasibility of a Student Unit Record System Within the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System," concludes that such issues would need to be worked out in the "design phase" of the system. A copy of the report is available on the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics Web site (http://nces.ed.gov
Many Collegians Do Not Graduate in 6 Years
May 26, 2004
As growing numbers of Americans enter college, most colleges and universities have failed to ensure that
Only 63 percent of full-time students at four-year colleges graduate within six years - a common yardstick for measuring graduation rates - the report says. And these rates have remained flat for more than 20 years.
Graduation rates are especially low for minority
students and those from low-income families, the
report says. Only
The report says that "the typical American college or university has a graduation rate gap between white and African-American students of over 10 percentage points" and that a quarter have a gap of 20 points or more.
The pattern for Hispanic students is similar, it says.
It says that graduation rates have
remained stuck for more than two decades. For the
high school class of 1972, 66
"But the consequences of not graduating have not stayed the same," the report says. "Once, those who tried and failed to get a college degree still had the opportunity to find a solid middle-management job and move up a career ladder. Lack of success in college was seen as an individual disappointment, not a national dilemma."
Now, it says, with jobs moving around the globe, people without college diplomas "face an uncertain and unstable future."
By its count, half a million college students every year fall short of getting their diplomas, with minority and low-income students disproportionately represented in that group.
Kevin Carey, a senior policy analyst at the trust who
wrote the report, said the disparities have become
Although graduation rates for colleges are typically highly correlated with the quality of their students, the trust said it had found a handful of colleges that had been able to push their graduation rates well above those of other colleges with similar students.
"There is a sense in the academic world that graduation rates are exclusively determined by the student body," Mr. Carey said. "That is not true. It is an important factor. But there are things institutions can do to improve their graduation rates that make a big difference. Some institutions clearly outperform their peer institutions year after year, not by two or three points, but by 15 or 20 points, consistently. Many, if not most, higher education institutions could do a lot more."
The trust, an advocacy group that favors standards-based education, called on colleges to adopt some of the strategies the model colleges use. It also recommended that states link their financial support for colleges to the progress their students make and their graduation rates.
One of the campuses cited for its performance was Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York. Its six-year graduation rate is 79 percent; among similar universities with comparable students, half have rates below 70 percent.
The trust said that Binghamton had also found ways to ensure that its under-represented minority students
Another model campus was the University of Northern
Iowa, where the six-year graduation rate is 67
And Elizabeth City State University, a historically black campus in North Carolina, has a 53 percent six-year graduation rate. Half of its peer institutions had rates of 39 percent or less.
Two campuses that have shown substantial improvement in
recent years, the report says, were Louisiana Tech
"These high-performers offer powerful evidence that our higher education system has the capacity for great improvement," the report says.
But it charged that most campuses do not feel a sense of urgency.
"With more students at the doorstep every fall, significant barriers to competition, and a market muddled by lack of information, many colleges and universities can operate in comfortable insulation for years or even decades, without really improving student outcomes that are often distressingly low," the report says. "This simply must change." http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/education/26CND-GRAD.html?ex=1086790087&ei=1&en=db29b782338f63f2
Study Faults Colleges on Graduation Rates
May 27, 2004
Only 63 percent of full-time college students at four-year colleges graduate within six years - a common yardstick for measuring graduation rates - the report said, and those rates have basically remained flat for 30 years.
Graduation rates are especially low for minority students and those from low-income families, the trust said. Only 46 percent of black students, 47 percent of Latino students and 54 percent of low-income students graduate within six years.
"The typical American college or university has a graduation rate gap between white and African-American students of over 10 percentage points," the report said, and a quarter of the institutions have a gap of 20 points or more. The pattern for Hispanic students is similar, it said.
Educators say that students drop out for many reasons, including academic, financial and personal problems.
"The preponderance of students who leave us and don't graduate cite personal reasons," said Carolyn Mahoney, vice chancellor of academic affairs at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black institution in North Carolina, where 53 percent of the students graduate within six years - a rate well above similar colleges.
Dr. Mahoney, who participated in a telephone conference
about the report yesterday, said that some students could
Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that works to raise student achievement, said the trust planned in-depth studies of colleges that had raised their graduation rates, and might also look at community colleges, where graduation rates were even lower than at four-year colleges.
The report said graduation rates had remained static for decades. For the high school class of 1972, 66 percent graduated from college within eight years. For the high school class of 1992, the rate was 67 percent.
"But the consequences of not graduating have not stayed the same," said Kevin Carey, a senior policy analyst at the trust who wrote the report. "There is a widening gulf in earnings between those with college degrees and those without, and that difference has accelerated in the last 10 or 12 years."
Mr. Carey said the disparities had become more visible
now that the federal Department of Education had
Although college graduation rates are typically highly correlated with the quality of their students, the trust said it had found a handful of colleges that had been able to push their graduation rates well above those of other colleges with similar students.
"There is a sense in the academic world that graduation rates are exclusively determined by the student body," Mr. Carey said. "That is not true. It is an important factor. But there are things institutions can do to improve their graduation rates that make a big difference."
The trust called on colleges to adopt the strategies model colleges use. Educators cited actions like tracking student progress and giving students more contact with professors. The trust also recommended that states link their financial support for colleges to their students' progress and their graduation rates.
One campus cited for its performance was Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York. Its six-year graduation rate is 79 percent; among similar universities with comparable students, half have rates below 70 percent.
The trust said that Binghamton had also found ways to ensure that minority students graduated at almost the same rates as its other students and at rates well above those of its peer institutions. Seventy-seven percent of Binghamton's black students graduate within six years, compared with 59 percent or less at half of its peer institutions, the report said.
Another model campus it cited was the University of Northern Iowa, where the six-year graduation rate is 67 percent, compared with 40 percent for comparable institutions. Miami University of Ohio has an 81 percent graduation rate, compared with a median rate of 68 percent among its peers.
Two campuses that have improved in recent years, the report said, were Louisiana Tech University (55 percent in 2002, up from 35 percent in 1997) and the University of Florida (77 percent in 2002, up from 64 percent in 1997). The University of Florida has worked to improve tracking and advising of its students, and to provide more sections of classes students need.
Thomas C. Meredith, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, where the average graduation rate at its 34 campuses is about 44 percent, said he had appointed a task force to study graduation rates and recommend improvements.
"We were tired of saying this is beyond our control," Dr. Meredith said yesterday during the telephone conference on the report.
But he said there were other reasons, too: The longer students stay, the more debt they incur; the state needs more college graduates; and the university needs to make room for a growing number of students.
"We desperately need the seats those students have," he said. "We need to get them in and get them out."
Low Scores Bar Many Admitted to CUNY May 28, 2004 By KAREN W. ARENSON
Thousands of students admitted to the bachelor's degree programs at the City University of New York cannot enroll because they are scoring too low on tests the university uses to determine college readiness, according to data CUNY has filed with the state.
More than 23,000 students were judged eligible for CUNY's bachelor's degree programs last fall based on the number of college preparatory courses they had taken and the grades they had received. But more than 5,000 of them failed to meet CUNY's criteria for registration by September.
CUNY introduced the tests four years ago, after Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and others attacked it for not having
They can show proficiency with scores of at least 75 on
the New York Regents tests or 480 on both the
The university provides free summer immersion courses to help. But those who still do not qualify by the end of the summer are directed to CUNY's associate degree programs or other transitional programs.
Previously, students judged unprepared based on placement tests were required to take noncredit remedial classes. But Mayor Giuliani and others charged that too many CUNY students were mired in remediation, and the university trustees voted to end remedial classes in bachelor's degree programs. (CUNY still offers remedial classes for students in its associate degree programs.)
When opponents said the new system would unnecessarily limit access to bachelor's degree programs, CUNY agreed to report to the State Board of Regents on the impact of its tests. The figures on last fall's admissions were included in a CUNY filing last month.
According to that report, CUNY admitted 23,553 students to its bachelor's degree programs for the fall, some of them conditional upon demonstrating their readiness. By July 1, 6,561 - more than a quarter - were deemed unprepared to begin college level work. Another 2,207 did not need to demonstrate proficiency because they were admitted under waivers for disadvantaged students and students for whom English was not a first language.
Of the remaining students, 1,525 were pronounced ready after taking CUNY's summer preparatory courses. But more
Some critics of CUNY's testing policy say it is unnecessarily limiting access.
"Many people will say, 'Yes, but if applicants can't
pass the tests, they don't belong in college,' ''
But CUNY officials say the sorting process reflects their high academic standards, and that enrollment in their bachelor's degree programs has risen to 10,208 first-time freshmen last fall, from 8,448 four years earlier. Matthew Goldstein, CUNY's chancellor, said the university was working with students who do not qualify to try to "get them over the hump," but that it is important to be honest with students who are not ready.
Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University who supports standards-based education,
"It is a reasonable position to have some colleges for which you have to be prepared to do the work," she said,
Dr. Crain said he was especially troubled by the students who had not enrolled at any college.
"They have other options, of course," he said on CUNY's Internet faculty discussion site. "But many don't find these options. What happened to these students? Did the discouragement of rejection combine with other hardships?"
But CUNY officials say that even before the test requirements were introduced, similar numbers of admitted students failed to enroll each year.
"Even under the old admission system, we always had a large number of students who didn't come to CUNY or to any other college," said David B. Crook, the university dean for institutional research at CUNY.