Colleges track former students to boost completion rates

Project Win-Win has helped colleges find hundreds of ex-students who have earned enough credits to receive an associate degree or are just a few classes shy of getting one.

Carmen Ricotta knows being a college graduate could mean higher pay and better job opportunities, and it’s not like St. Louis Community College hasn’t been practically begging her to wrap up her two-year degree.

The school has been calling and emailing the 28-year-old electrician’s apprentice to get her to return and complete her final assignment: an exit exam. But life has gotten in the way and Ricotta has been too busy to make the 30-minute trip from her suburban home near Fenton, Mo., to the downtown St. Louis campus.

St. Louis Community College is among 60-plus schools in nine states taking what seems like an obvious but little-used step to boost college completion rates: scouring campus databases to track down former students who unknowingly qualify for degrees.…Read More

The value in nontraditional college completion paths

A new report explains that value of acknowledging nontraditional paths to college completion.

In the past few years, the road to degree completion has diverged into multiple pathways to that lead to that singular, shining destination: graduation day.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released a state-by-state comparative study of student attainment rates based on student-level data from more than 3,300 participating colleges and universities. The study follows college enrollment behaviors beginning in the fall of 2006 through the spring of 2012.

“Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates” found that when nontraditional paths to college completion are acknowledged, the national completion rate hovers just above 75 percent. Nontraditional students are commonly regarded as “invisible” students and include those who transfer, maintain part-time or mixed enrollment status, or are adult learners.…Read More

Colleges pledge to graduate additional 4 million students

Reaching the new target of 18.4 million graduates by 2025 will require institutions to improve by about 3 percent annually beyond current trends.

Nearly 500 public colleges that account for three-quarters of all four-year college students pledged Oct. 2 to produce a combined 3.8 million additional graduates by 2025, an ambitious target that would help bring the United States closer to its goal of regaining its lost global lead in college attainment.

The schools represented currently produce just over 1 million graduates per year and, at current rates, would produce about 14.6 million degrees by 2025. Reaching the new target of 18.4 million will require institutions to improve by about 3 percent annually beyond current trends, to about 1.6 million annually, said Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities President Peter McPherson.

“That’s a big deal, particularly with this growing diversity in the high school graduating classes,” said McPherson, whose organization is driving the effort along with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.…Read More

College dropout rate puts financial strain on governments

First-year college completion is crucial to earning a diploma.
First-year college completion is crucial to earning a diploma.

State and federal governments spend billions of dollars in college financial aid to support students at four-year colleges and universities who leave school before their sophomore year, according to a new report from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) that provides yet another financial incentive for policy makers to focus on boosting college graduation rates.

“When students enroll in a college or university and drop out before the second year, they have invested time and money only to see their hopes and dreams of a college degree dashed,” said Mark Schneider, an AIR vice president and former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. “These costs can be heartbreaking for students and families, but the financial costs to states are enormous.”

“Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of First-Year Student Attrition in America’s Four-Year Colleges and Universities” examines 2004-09 data from the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and found that the 30 percent of first-year college students who failed to return to campus for a second year accounted for $6.2 billion in state appropriations for colleges and universities during that period and more than $1.4 billion in student grants from the states.…Read More