College fantasies

Eighty percent of 10th graders say they plan to earn a college degree, and 64 percent of high school graduates enroll in college. But there’s a huge gap between students’ ambitions and reality, USA Today reports.

Only about one in 17 young people from the nation’s poorest families, those earning less than $35,377 a year, can expect to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24. For those from the nation’s wealthiest families, those who earn about $85,000 or higher, it’s better than one in two.

Colleges and universities spend an estimated $1 billion a year on remediation for unprepared students.

The number of bachelor’s degrees earned annually rose by 18% from 1990 to 2002. But while graduation rates rose at elite colleges, they dropped — sometimes sharply — at many others, especially public colleges.

Only one in four degree-seeking students at two-year colleges earn a degree or certificate. Results are mixed at four-year colleges. Though graduation rates at the most selective public colleges rose sharply from 1990 to 2002, from 61% to 74.6%, graduation rates at open-admissions colleges, which admit anyone with a high school diploma, slid from 42% to 25.8%.

Middle and high school students need regular reality checks to tell them whether they’re on track to earn a college degree, not just “go” to college, take a few courses and drop out. If they’re not motivated to prepare for college, offer them a path to vocational training and apprenticeships. Money is an excellent motivator for most young people.

About Joanne


  1. Over at “A Constrained Vision” they have a great post today about remedying this particular deficiency. You can see it here:

  2. Joanne – How are the DCP graduates doing in the remediation department?


  3. Mike, DCP’s first graduates are freshmen in college. The school someone to help graduates (via e-mail and visits), so that they persist toward a degree despite any obstacles they encounter. So far, students are passing their classes; most say they’re making friends and enjoying themselves. The greatest risk is that students will work too many hours to avoid going deeply into debt, and won’t have time to keep up academically as their courses get harder.