As students are announcing their big college admissions plans, behind-the-scenes colleges are hoping you won’t see the new report from Student Clearinghouse “1 in 5 with some college no degree.” The industry even has a term for it “SCNC.” Can we get real about graduation rates?
In 1992 when I left my job as a chef to work for a large community college system in Iowa, my job was to help build the state’s first culinary arts apprenticeship program. Most apprenticeship programs are run by businesses, but ours ran through the college system, so I went from running a hotel kitchen to building and running an education program. Talk about huge culture shock! In the restaurant world, there is nothing more important than customer satisfaction. If a guest left the restaurant unhappy, or with an entree untouched, there was MAJOR collaboration to figure out what went wrong- who messed up- and how to prevent that from EVER happening again. Not the case in education.
People who work in education, especially those who have only worked in education, cannot detect or distinguish common problems plaguing the system. During my first 4 years leading that program, our graduation rates were single digits. I worried endlessly about this and felt like my inexperience kept our program from achieving a 100% graduation rate. (Why don’t all programs have a 100% completion rate?) Year after year I agonized about this problem, my dean and president unconcerned. “It’s fine. You’re doing great. Do more recruiting.”
THIS is the problem, and this isn’t a sample size of one. As you look towards a degree for your teen, you have to know the enormous odds facing your teen. For decades, the entire college and university industry has managed to downplay their critically low graduation rates while concerning themselves with enrollment above all else. I mention my early work in the 90’s to demonstrate that this problem is (a) not new (b) not getting fixed. Trust me when I tell you, the colleges are unconcerned. Unalarmed. Unphased.
This year, 19 million students will enroll in a postsecondary (after high school) program. This will include teens and adults alike. 19 million. Sit with that. 19 million eager learners. 19 million who want a better career. 19 million who have been promised that education solves their problems. 19 million who believe that it’s “good debt” and will be “worth it.” 19 million who truly believe that if they can’t finish their degree, that there is something wrong with them. 19 million who are sure that they couldn’t measure up. Most of those students will never ask if the system is broken! Most of them will never ask if the colleges are fully aware of poor completion rates and are turning a blind eye to the problem.
The National Student Clearinghouse’s Research Center published new numbers this month. Numbers are bad. Out of all adults walking around this country. 1 in 5 are SCNC.
20% of Americans Have Some Credit, No Credential
As a subscriber of various higher education journals, I’ve read a few editorials about this new report. The largest journal, Chronicle of Higher Education, presented these findings as a optimistic marketing opportunity for “recruiting and re-engaging” the SCNC!
Your failure. Your teen’s failure. These are marketing opportunities. Are you angry yet?
SCNC is a “growing market of former students who might one day re-enroll.”
The report highlights two subsets of students on “whom colleges can focus their re-enrollment efforts.”
“The ‘potential completers’ market segment includes 2.9-million adults who have each amassed what amounts to two years of full-time enrollment over the last decade with no degree.“
Homeschooling for College Credit Advice
- Be alarmed. Be very alarmed. The odds are against YOUR smart and capable student.
- Do not feel special. I’m sorry to be blunt, but smart kids don’t finish college All. Day. Long.
- Getting into college is easy, getting out is hard.
- Admissions rates are easy to find, but graduation rates are hard to find – look these up for every of your teen’s target colleges.
- Getting out is not about brains, SAT scores, work ethic, or chosen major.
- Getting out requires an exceptional amount of “paying attention” to your teen’s degree requirements and how to meet them.
- Getting out is more likely when you have intentionally collected college credit before you begin.
- Getting out is more likely when your teen demonstrates “proof of concept” by successfully finishing the first 30 credits in a low risk/low cost setting like dual enrollment.
- Getting out is more likely when parents GET INVOLVED. This is NOT the time to step out of their education.
- Devise a plan to apply for admissions and graduation. Use real numbers, real schedules, and real dates. This will take careful planning and diligent follow-through.
- 6-year graduation rates for a 4-year degree are 64%. (64% will earn their degree, but it will take 6 years)
- 4-year graduation rates for a 4-year degree are 46% (46% who earn their degree can do it in 4 years)