As we come to the end of the year and approach the holiday season, I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday!
From the past week, I would like to share some welcome news on improving access and graduation for college students.
The non-profit Indianapolis group, Complete College America, released a report “Four-Year Myth”, discussing the low 4-year college graduation rates. Their premise is that most students should graduate on-time in 4 years. For years, the focus has been on a 6-year graduation rate when families usually plan for financing four years of college. Especially in the STEM fields, many students have found it difficult to graduate in four years, unless they took a large number of AP courses in high school. For years, the 4-year graduation rate has been low; it is not a recent occurrence. In their research, Complete College America found that “Nationwide, only 50 of more than 580 public four-year institutions graduate a majority of their full-time students on time.” The Department of Education reports that the 4-year graduation rate for 4-year public institutions is 33% (based on the 2006 freshman class). A much higher percent graduate within 6 years, but with the cost of tuition the extra years can be very expensive to the student and his/her family. The report suggests strategies that provide “leaner” processes for enrolling in courses and graduating. Sometimes, the issue is as simple as the student cannot enroll in required courses, thus delaying degree completion. Included in the report is significant thought on establishing math course pathways for students who need to take remedial math.
Significantly, last week, the White House held a College Opportunity Day of Action Summit with many college leaders attending. This summit focused on systems thinking, designing a student-focused culture, and innovation/sharing of ideas. In addressing improved access and graduation, the following topics were discussed: improved pathways from high school to college, improved high school college counseling, mentoring students once in college, technology innovation supporting students, improving STEM degree completion, more collaboration between high schools and universities, and reducing students’ cost of college. Panel discussions focused on innovation and collaboration in education, and changing the institutional culture to a student focused culture supporting learning and graduation. There was a call for universities to get more involved with the common core and not to consider it as only a K-12 concern (which I agree with).
Over 600 commitments were made for improving access and degree completion by universities and organizations, including 100 commitments on STEM education. See this link for a summary of the STEM degree commitments by colleges. This US News article summarizes the summit.
My hope is that we continue to see this level of collaboration and systems thinking among universities. As Quality guru, Joseph Juran, often said, we implement quality improvement one project at a time. Each university must implement a “student success” culture. Those universities that continue embracing a “weed-out” culture will find that they are less competitive. Implementation of the ideas expressed both in the Complete College America report and at the White House Summit will lead to better access and higher degree completion rates! It is exciting to see this progress!