I seem to be in the mood to blog about colleges this week. It must be the wonderful group of first-year students who have just arrived on campus.
In today's New York Times, we learn that there are some colleges with very low graduation rates. Here's the crux of the matter:
About 50 colleges across the country have a six-year graduation rate below 20 percent, according to the Education Trust, a nonprofit research group. Many of the institutions serve low-income and minority students.
Such numbers have prompted a fierce debate here — and in national education circles — about who is to blame for the results, whether they are acceptable for nontraditional students, and how universities should be held accountable if the vast majority of students do not graduate.
“If you’re accepting a child into your institution, don’t you have the responsibility to make sure they graduate?” asked Melissa Roderick, the co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produced the study.
That's an interesting question, right up there with "If you are going to use a singular noun (child), don't you have the responsibility to make sure you do not use a plural pronoun (they) to refer to it?" It is not a responsibility per se, but you may experience some negative reactions if you let it persist.
We do college students a disservice to refer to them as "children." They are young adults and they are expected to behave as such. That means they need to take responsibility for their progress through college and put forth the effort required.
The challenge in higher education is not to make sure that students graduate. The challenge in higher education is to make sure that the degree they receive when they graduate does in fact represent mastery of college-level academic material. I think it would be a bad move to penalize institutions for a low graduation rate without imposing an even larger material for watering down the standards for passing courses and graduating.
The low graduation rates do indicate a problem. I doubt that the problem is that the standards for performance are too high. I think the main problem is that some students arrive very poorly prepared. A secondary problem may be that some colleges do not do much to support students who need better preparation. The article goes on to note some better practices that some colleges are implementing in the latter respect.