Is higher ed creating the next dropout factories?

Jul 28, 2017 by

One author argues pressure around social mobility reports has led to overinflated admissions — and rising dropout rates.

Dive Brief:

  • One University of Leeds staffer is arguing that making large exceptions to  admissions standards for the sake of increasing diversity is bad for both the students and the university. While institutions can tout a greater acceptance rate of students from “disadvantaged” backgrounds, these students are often not graduating, says Huw Owen, a tax accountant at the institution.
  • Owen writes that pressure around social mobility reports saying a college degree is the only way to move one forward in a significant way has led to overinflated admissions — and rising dropout rates.
  • Research shows a student’s class rank, more than academic ability, is the best indicator of whether a student will persist.

Dive Insight:

Owen seems to equate affirmative action with a compromising of academic standards, but there is a significant difference between making an intentional effort to admit qualified, college-ready students who were previously shut out of institutions and programs and admitting students who aren’t college-ready for the sake of meeting enrollment targets.

As institutions become increasingly tuition-reliant and the feeder population continues to dwindle, we are seeing more and more of the latter take place — and there’s a way to have it all when it comes to this admissions shell game. Colleges and universities creating special programs to admit students who aren’t academically prepared to attend college can manipulate reporting outcomes by admitting these students in the spring semester instead of the fall, which would mean these students are not counted in the institution’s graduation and retention statistics for the incoming fall cohort. The federal reporting system has a lot of gaps that need to be addressed, but while the U.S. Department of Education works on those (or doesn’t), institutions can use those gaps to their benefit.

But institutions must also ensure the proper supports exist on campus to get those students through to graduation. Whether it’s streamlining courses, considering a model that allows students to take their remediation courses alongside credit-bearing courses to keep them on track for graduation, providing extra tutors, and pairing those students with staff mentors early, all of these measures ultimately cost less for the institution than the financial penalties levied in many states when a school fails to meet the targets.

Source: Is higher ed creating the next dropout factories? | Education Dive

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