College 101: Outcomes in the College Establishment (Part 4 of 5)

Here, in Part 4 of this blog series, I will cover one last unnerving sub-plot in the story of US colleges.

A small and unchanging set of incumbent US colleges not only control enrollment (Part 2) and large public subsidies (Part 3). They also dodge accountability.

Little data on college outcomes is collected or published by colleges themselves, by the governments that fund them, or by the accreditation agencies that protect them.

And what good data is available – on graduation rates, on employers’ view of the job readiness of graduates, and on students’ self-reported satisfaction with college – is discouraging.


Other Posts in this Series


A. Graduation Rates at 4-Year Colleges

The majority of students who enroll in US colleges do not graduate and a large majority of certain segments of college students (students of color, students from low income households, and students at 2-year colleges) do not graduate.

Consider 4-year colleges first.

4-year colleges enroll approximately 13 million students and account for 66% of US college students (40% in public 4-year colleges and 26% in private 4-year colleges).

Across these 4-year colleges, a mere 40% of students graduate in four years, and only 60% graduate in 6 years.

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

These average graduation rates in 4-year colleges – as low as they are — mask far lower and more alarming graduation rates among students of color.

For example, only 21% of African-American students who enroll in a 4-year college graduate within 4 years.

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

Overall graduation rates in 4-year colleges also cover up far lower graduation rates among low income students.

For example, the 6-year graduation rate in 4-year colleges for students in the lowest income quartile is 32% lower than the analogous graduation rate for students in the top income quartile.

A similar income-related graduation rate gap exists between students who qualify for a Pell grant and students who do not.

 

Note: % of College Students Who Enrolled in College in 2003-2004 who Graduated by 2009 National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Note: % of College Students Who Enrolled in College in 2003-2004 who Graduated by 2009 National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Education Trust, The Pell Partnership Education Trust, The Pell Partnership

 

Graduation rates at 4-year colleges also vary considerably by college type. For example, only 18% of entrants to private, for-profit colleges – which enroll approximately 10% of all 4-year college students – graduate in four years.

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

B. Graduation Rates at 2-Year Colleges

As worrisome as the graduation picture is at 4-year colleges, it worsens at 2-year colleges, almost all of which are publicly run and which educate about one-third of US college students.

Notably, only 28% of students who enrolled in a 2-year college in 2011 graduated within 3 years.

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

Predictably and regrettably, 2-year colleges fare even worse with students of color and students from low income households.

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Note: Percent of students who enrolled in 2-Year Colleges in 2003-2004 who acquired any degree (Certificate, Associate, or Bachelors) by 2009 National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics Note: Percent of students who enrolled in 2-Year Colleges in 2003-2004 who acquired any degree (Certificate, Associate, or Bachelors) by 2009 National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

Graduation rates at 2-year colleges also vary considerably by college type.

In particular, just 20% of students who enrolled in a 2-year public college in 2011 graduated within three years. And the 3-year graduation rate for African-American students in 2-year public colleges was merely 9.8%.

That the graduation rates of private 2-year colleges are considerably higher than public 2-year colleges is, unfortunately, not much comfort since there are so few private 2-year colleges. They only account for only 2% of US college students.

 

National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics

 

The low graduation rates at public 2-year colleges are worth stressing since these colleges are the subject of so much policy attention of late, and they are now regularly presented — despite their poor outcomes — as institutions worthy of more public aid.

In sum, approximately 30% of all American college students – disproportionately students of color and students from low income backgrounds – currently attend 2-year public colleges. Only 20% of them earn a degree.

C. Employer and Student Perceptions of College

Employers have little faith in the job readiness of college graduates.

For example, a 2015 study commissioned by the American Association of Colleges and Universities surveyed 400 large employers. The study asked employers to evaluate college graduates by specific skill and knowledge areas relevant to employment. The results were discouraging.

 

Hart Research Associates on behalf of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, Falling Short? College Learning & Career Success Hart Research Associates on behalf of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, Falling Short? College Learning & Career Success

 

Like employers, students are unsure of the worth and ROI of college. For example, a 2014 Noel-Levitz survey of approximately 600,000 college students found that nearly half of college students are not satisfied with their college experience.

 

Noel Levitz, LLC, National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report Noel Levitz, LLC, National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report

 

D. Conclusion

On the whole, college outcomes are hard to assess for lack of data and, where good data is available, are unimpressive or worse.

In the next blog and to conclude this blog series, I will strike a more optimistic and constructive chord. I will volunteer a forward-looking policy recommendation, one that calls for admitting new and alternative organizations into the college space. It is a policy suggestion that, in my view, is substantial and structural enough to address the trouble with college as I have described it in these past three blogs.





A Note on Sources: With three exceptions, the data in the charts and tables above come from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Digest of Education Statistics. The exceptions are as follows:

  1. Data on 4-year college graduation rates by income level and college type comes from The Pell Partnership, a 2014 report by EdTrust.
  2. Data on employer perceptions of college graduates’ readiness for the workplace comes from a study conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
  3. Data on college student satisfaction comes from a 2014 Noel-Levitz study of college student satisfaction.

Sources List

Table 1 – Graduation Rate at 4-Year Colleges

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.10.asp

Figure 2 – Graduation Rate at 4-Year Colleges by Race

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.10.asp

Figure 3 – Graduation Rate at 4-Year Colleges by Income

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_326.40.asp

Table 4 – 6-Year Graduation Rate at 4-Year Colleges by Income Level & College Type

https://edtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/ThePellPartnership_EdTrust_2015.pdf

Figure 5 – Graduation Rate at 4-Year Colleges by College Type

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.10.asp

Figure 6 – Graduation Rates: 2-Year v. 4-Year Colleges

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.10.asp

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.20.asp

Figure 7 – Graduation Rate at 2-Year Colleges by Race

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.20.asp

Figure 8 – Graduation Rates at 2-Year Colleges by Income

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_326.40.asp

Table 9 – Graduation Rate at 2-Year Colleges by College Type

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_326.20.asp

Table 10 – Employer Perceptions of College Graduates Readiness for the Workplace

https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/2015employerstudentsurvey.pdf

Figure 11 – College Student Satisfaction Survey Data

https://www.ruffalonl.com/documents/shared/Papers_and_Research/2014/2014_NationalStudentSatisfactionReport.pdf