America’s Troubling College Graduation Rate

A recent study from AEI compares graduation and drop-out rates among American colleges and finds a disturbing trend. Colleges are graduating less than 60% of their student bodies in six years. Among schools labeled ‘competitive’ (average SAT of entrants of 500-572) about 41.5% of the students graduate.

While elite Ivy league schools have high graduation rates, schools with similar levels of selectivity show large discrepancies. For instance, schools labeled ‘Less Competitive’ (avg. SAT below 500) vary from a 9% graduation rate at Edwards Waters College to a 98% rate at Atlantic Union College.

On average, Pennsylvania colleges graduate 64.4% of their students on time, with state colleges graduating 53%. Among Pennsylvania schools graduating 80% or more of their students all but one was private. Cheyney University, one of the 14 state universities, has the worst rate in the state, graduating only 29% of their students.

Not surprisingly, the study also found evidence that the practices of educational institutions can affect graduation rates. Since millions of tax dollars go to these institutions every year it’s worth asking why so many students fail to complete their education. At the same time institutions should not give out diplomas for the sake of rankings.

Perhaps the only way to ensure students are “getting their money’s worth” is to let students spend state subsidies instead of allowing Harrisburg politicians to dole out tax dollars to higher education institutions of their choice.