College: Enrollment up, graduation rates down

Do you think time is the enemy when it comes to getting your degree?

How is it that more people than ever before are enrolling in college, but less of them are actually getting their diplomas?

A staggering report, which had the cooperation of 33 state governors, was released today by the non-profit Complete College America. It reveals that while more students are opting to pursue higher education, graduation rates are on the decline.

“I think the American public will be surprised when they see how many people don’t finish,” said Cheryl Orr Dixon, senior vice president of Complete College America.

The report, which declares time as the enemy, says this problem is particularly prominent among non-traditional students, for whom schooling must compete with the responsibilities of working or raising a family.  These non-traditional students now make up the majority of American college students, at about 75 percent. Additionally, the report claims the federal government does not track the graduation rates of part-time students.

The traditional college student is not what it used to be, so higher education systems have to change to meet needs of what the American student looks like,” said Orr Dixon. “As a country, we cant afford to continue down the same path.”

Part-time students graduate at a lower rate than full-time students, even when they have more time, said the report. 27.8 percent of full-time students going after a 1-year certificate were able to graduate compared with only 12.2 percent of part-time students. About 18.8 percent of full-time students obtained a 2-year associate’s degree with in four years, but that success rate was only 7.8 percent for part-time students.

The report said 60.6 percent of full-time students got their bachelor’s degree within eight years, but only 24.3 percent of part-time students were able to within the same amount of time.

Poor students and minority students are the least likely to obtain their degrees, even though enrollment among them has increased, according to the report.

The authors of the report offer some solutions that might help more students enroll full-time, including block schedules with fixed and predictable class times; shorter academic terms and less time off between terms; simplifying registration with one single, coherent program; and embed remediation into the regular college curriculum.

“We need transformative approaches and those are big changes but critical to meet needs of students who are working,” said Orr Dixon.


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