Enrolling in a four-year college brings large benefits to marginal students, concludes David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Students who barely qualify for a four-year university — say, a C+ average and an 840 SAT — go much farther than those who just miss the cut-off, according to two new studies. Lower-income students and men see the largest gains.
In a Georgia study, about half of those who just made it into a state university earned a bachelor’s degree in six years. That compared to a 17 percent graduation rate for those who just missed, many of whom started at a community college.
Florida students who just cleared the cut-off earned 22 percent more by their late 20s than those who just missed.
“It’s genuinely destructive to give people the message that we’re overinvesting in college, that we’re in a college-debt bubble, that you’ll end up as an unemployed ethnomusicologist with $200,000 in debt working at Starbucks,” David Autor, an MIT economist, told Leonhardt.
The story’s anecdote features Carlos Escanilla, a C+ slacker with a 900 SAT (out of 1600) who squeaked into university. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and now a psychotherapist.
There are late bloomers. But how many?