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

Plan to stem dropout rate stirs controversy

Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.
Only about 70 percent of high school freshmen go on to graduate, the White House says.

The Obama administration is offering a $900 million carrot to the nation’s school systems to tackle what many view as an abysmal dropout rate that threatens America’s ability to compete in the new global economy. But it’s the “stick” portion of the administration’s plan that has rankled many educators.

Districts would get the money only if they agree to one of four plans to dramatically change or even shut down their worst performing schools. One of these plans involves firing the principal and at least half of the staff members at a struggling school—a turnaround plan that captured national attention when it was tried by the Central Falls, R.I., school system last week.

President Obama took aim at the nation’s school dropout epidemic in a March 1 speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. During the event—which was sponsored by the America’s Promise Alliance, a youth-oriented organization founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma—Obama noted the economic impact that dropouts have on America’s ability to compete.…Read More