Not Enough of Us Are Graduating from College—And Here’s Why

Higher education doesn't have to mean a four-year degree

graduating (Image: iStock/digitalskillet)

 

Two years ago my husband and I watched—nearly bursting with pride and joy—as our daughter was graduating from college. Any photo taken of me that day shows a ridiculous grin on my face—my happiness could not be contained. We were truly overjoyed, grateful, and proud.

But getting college students to the finish line isn’t easy—many start out, but only 59% graduate within six years, much less within four.

Although I completely agree with those who say that students need to work hard in school and party less, I’m also all for institutions doing what they can to make graduating more likely and eliminate unnecessary impediments—like requiring too many credits to complete a degree.

Dan Greenstein, director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote recently on his blog about how certain persistent myths affect today’s students and often thwart their chances of graduating on time.

He identifies the following myths:

  • College is not for everyone, and too many people are going to college.
  • Students don’t make it through college because they are not college material.
  • Income might be a barrier to a college degree, but race isn’t.

Here’s an excerpt from his blog post below.

We are now entering what is perhaps my favorite time of the year: graduation season. As a veteran faculty member and administrator, I have fond memories of commencement ceremonies, seeing the joy and pride in the faces of graduates and their families and knowing many of the stories behind those smiles.

While graduation season is filled with inspiring stories of persistence, sacrifice, and accomplishment, it also gives rise to some lingering myths about our students and what it takes for them to get to graduation. These myths hurt students because they help preserve a status quo in which not enough of them succeed. We can and must bust these myths.

MYTH 1: College is not for everyone, and too many people are going to college. When many people hear the word “college,” they think only of four-year universities and rightly argue that not everyone needs a four-year degree.

But in today’s world, it is important to define college as a meaningful credential after high school—everything from short-term certificates in areas such as information technology to doctorates that can take up to a decade to complete. By that standard, we don’t have enough people going to college. Leading labor market projections show that our economy could face a shortfall of up to 11 million credentialed workers by 2025. And the data are clear that today’s labor market clearly favors those with post-high school education, with nearly all of the post-recession jobs going to those with more than a high school diploma. Additionally, it is becoming more difficult to earn a family-supporting wage with a high school diploma or less.

It is time to stop arguing over whether everyone needs college and instead focus on the kind of college that different people need. Otherwise we have no hope of reaching a national attainment goal of 60% of adults with a credential of value—or coming anywhere close to it.

Read more here.