This Saturday, I will graduate from the University of South Dakota, nearly 16 years since I started there. I’d dropped out in 2001 because of a missing calculus class, Forbes reports.
My dropout story is unusual in some ways — I was a Wall Street Journal reporter for nine years, got a master’s from Columbia University, and am teaching journalism at the college level — but it illustrates a broader issue: Nearly half of Americans who start four-year degree programs don’t finish them within six years. The US ranks middle of the pack in graduation rates among wealthier countries, a competitive problem that President Obama and others would like to remedy.
The 37 million college dropouts in America come with many different types of stories and with some famous names in their ranks, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. But these guys also hold keys to a simple fix to America’s dropout rate: technology.
From my experience and that of others I know, many students are often a few credits or classes shy of a degree when opportunity knocks. Bureaucratic policies at home institutions sometimes hinder rather than help people to complete their degrees once they’ve left campus. Giving them simpler ways to complete the degrees via online courses could cause a pop in college graduation rates nationwide.