Commentary: College grad rates are ‘bad data’

Dropouts.  Lost. Vanished. According to the federal formula for calculating the graduation rates of colleges and universities, close to a majority of all college students are dropouts or lost to the system entirely, even if they have earned degrees, says Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, for the Washington Post.  For Trinity and many similar universities–those that enroll large numbers of students who transfer in, or who are part-time students, or who are “non-traditional” by many other factors–a majority of the degrees awarded go to students who don’t count in the federal data system. The collegiate graduation rate may well be the most poorly constructed and misunderstood statistic in all of higher education. The metric became fashionable in the 1990’s in an effort to track the academic condition of NCAA athletes who seemed to be leaving college in large numbers without graduating. (No wonder the statistic doesn’t work well for most institutions today!)…

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