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“College Dropout Factories” Stay Open Despite Poor Graduation Rates

In College Dropout Factories, authors Ben Miller and Phuong Ly illustrate the story of Nestor Curiel, a promising high school graduate failed by the American higher education system.  Miller and Ly spotlight the consistently low-performing colleges and universities that graduate inadequately-prepared students year after year. Miller and Ly describe a bleak scenario where the same colleges and universities are not held accountable for the poor quality of education provided to their students. The article included the 2010 rankings of 4-year public and private not-for-profit colleges in America with the worst graduation rates, including several schools that offer associate and bachelor’s degrees or certificates in CTE-related areas.

The authors assert that colleges and universities with very high dropout rates are often overlooked; they maintain accreditation and student enrollment despite dismal graduation rates. One major complaint is that students do not receive sufficient academic support; studies suggest a correlation between “extensive student support, especially during freshman and sophomore years, and high graduation rates.” Unfortunately, some schools do not have incentive to provide additional student support because they receive federal financial aid and state appropriations as long as they continue to enroll students.

The authors propose two steps to curtail the problem of very low-performing schools producing inadequately-prepared students:

1)     Acknowledge that colleges share responsibility for graduation with students

2)     Shut the worst institutions down

The authors also suggest that governors and state legislatures intervene by tying state funding to graduation rates. Additionally, they indicate that accreditors should make the colleges’ evaluations public, and hold them accountable by tying graduation rates to accreditation. As more attention is drawn to very low-performing colleges and universities, the schools will need to make rapid and dramatic improvements to maintain their student populations.

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