53% earn bachelor's in six years

Four-year colleges graduate 53 percent of students in six years, concludes an American Enterprise Institute analysis of Education Department data.  Diplomas and Dropouts looks at full-time students who enrolled in fall, 2001.

Looking at institutions with comparable admissions standards, there were notable differences.

•Among schools that require only a high school diploma for admission, Walla Walla University and Heritage University, both in Washington state, reported graduation rates of 53% and 17%, respectively.

•Among colleges that require high school grades averaging a B-minus or better, John Carroll University in Cleveland and Chicago State University in Illinois graduated 74% vs. 16%, respectively.

•In the “most competitive” group, Amherst College in Massachusetts and Reed College in Portland, Ore., graduated 96% vs. 76%, respectively.

Education Sector’s Kevin Carey explains how Cleveland State Community College in Tennessee boosted its success rate in Introducing a Remedial Program That Actually Works in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Nearly two-thirds of new students must take at least one remedial class, comparable to the remediation rate for community college students nationwide. Until recently, nearly half failed their remedial courses; most dropped out.

John Squires, chair of the math department, decided to try the math “emporium model” popularized by the National Center for Academic Transformation.

Instead of attending traditional lectures in basic math, elementary algebra, and intermediate algebra, remedial students come to a large computer lab where they solve math problems and, when they need help, work with on-site faculty members and tutors. Courses are arranged in weekly modules with accompanying quizzes that can be retaken until students are ready for the next step.

. . . The percentage of remedial students at Cleveland State earning at least a C in the three math courses jumped from 55 percent to 72 percent.

Test scores are up too, and students who’ve gone through the remedial program are succeeding in college-level math classes. In fact, they’re earning higher grades than classmates who didn’t require remediation.

Cleveland State’s new approach costs less and gives professors more time for direct contact with students.  The flexibility saves students time and money too, Carey writes. Those who do well can complete two or three math courses in one semester.  The college is redesigning its math program completely — and the English Department is planning to try the emporium model.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    Regarding the emporium model… it’s just an old idea being repackaged at the college level – CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction). In elementary school we used to work on tons of math problems at a computer and our results would be given to our teachers who were able to work with those that needed help. Because of CAI I was completely able to skip 7th and 8th grade math.

    Ultimately, this study means little, because as the original story notes “schools should not be unfairly penalized for maintaining high standards.”

    Walla Walla graduated 53% while Heritage graduated 17%… but the Walla Walla graduates might graduate without even being able to spell ‘graduate.’

    As for Harvard’s 97%, I have heard many stories of individuals who benefited from the ‘Gentleman’s C.’

  2. GoogleMaster says:

    Where’s that “college is not 13th grade” essay? Sounds like a lot of students are not ready for college and probably shouldn’t be there until they have made themselves ready. At least some of them are in community college, which seems to serve the remedial pre-college niche well, but I wouldn’t try to compare a CC with a 4-year college.

  3. GoogleMaster says:

    53%, wow, that’s the same as the graduation rate from the
    (pre-college) school district that I live in.

    Not sure how long this link will be active, but:
    Study: 58.5 percent of area freshmen finish high school

    “53 percent of the students who begin as ninth-graders in the Houston Independent School District had not graduated from any Texas high school in six years. The combined graduation rate for the entire region’s high schools is 58.5 percent.”

    The Chron story is somewhat confusingly written. The quoted text states that 53% of the district’s freshmen had not graduated, but the sidebar table claims a 53% graduation rate for the same district.

    To alleviate some confusion, “Houston ISD” is but one district in a region comprising some 55-60 districts. The HISD graduation rate is either 53% or 47%, and the overall regional graduation rate is 58.5.%. Graduation rates for districts in the region range from 18.8% for the charter schools to 78.4% for a suburban district near NASA.

  4. The math “emporium model” sounds very similar to the successful Kumon method, where instructors work one-on-one with students once or twice a week. Then, the students practice independently by completing worksheets during the week. They do not advance to the next step until they have demonstrated mastery on the previous one. The main difference between the two methods seems to be that Kumon uses paper and pencil instead of computers for practice.

    I think my kids would have done better with something that looks like the math emporium model than the sorry reform math that they’ve had to endure in K-12.

  5. As Charles Murray noted, “too many kids are going to college,” and this country has a misplaced focus on bachelor’s degrees. Much could be done to mitigate this with a greater focus on technical schools and associate’s degree programs. New Hampshire is on the right track.


  6. An emporium model doesn’t employ enough dues-paying members of a teacher’s union. This is an undesirable economy of scale.

  7. I think we would benefit from a new set of laws requiring schools to publish certain data, such as graduation rates, according to rigorous methodologies. The superintendents of the school districts and the presidents of the universities should be then criminally liable any fraud in that data, the same way Sarbanes-Oxley requires corporate officers to be criminally liable for any fraud in the data they report.

    I suspect we would find out that high school graduation rates are far lower than the statistics most school districts give us.

    >As Charles Murray noted, “too many kids are going to college,” and
    >this country has a misplaced focus on bachelor’s degrees.

    Absolutely. My father taught a vocational education class and lots of his students went on to be very successful, owning their own companies and graduating from college. They just needed to start life with a good job instead of more education. Spending a couple of years dropping out of college doesn’t prepare you for hardly anything.

  8. Reed attracts a different type of student than Amherst does so IMHO it’s comparing apples & oranges. Artsy kids are less interested in traditional measures of achievement like a bachelor’s degree than Type A preppies are.

  9. SuperSub says:

    If artsy kids are less interested in traditional measures of achievement, then why are they wasting my money attending a college that they will not graduate from?

    The point of the study IS that we are comparing apples and oranges… no matter how idealistic we are about education, no matter how much we want everyone to be an apple, there will always be plenty of oranges, who are just fine the way they are. Oranges are just as necessary to our society as apples… some would say more so.

    My wife and I are expecting our first child. She had a PharmD and I have a Masters in Ed. Discussing our future child’s future, we would both be equally ecstatic if she wanted to be a car mechanic or plumber as if she wanted to be a doctor or engineer.