The Bigger Impact of Low Degree Completion Rates

A few weeks ago, we reported on the The College Payoff. In the article we referenced the trends and situations of how much a degree means to you. But that isn’t the most complete picture, is it?

What does a degree mean for those around you? Your State? The Nation? We realize that adults who go back to school do so for many reasons. But sometimes we may not understand the impact of our choices on the world around us. Right now, we know the U.S. is in a delicate financial position, and everyone is making tough decisions.  Whether or not to return to education is one of those decisions. When you have six-year graduation rates across the country that barely cross 50% and a million adults in Louisiana alone do not have a college degree, the issue is quite clear.

But is there proof? The American Institute for Research has released their own report The High Cost of Low Graduation Rates.

A brief overview can be found here.

Most importantly, the report unveils the effect of these low degree completion rates across the country. Not only do adults without a degree make less money than those with a degree, but the less money they make personally is less money spent in their community and nation.

Clearly, this would be an issue on a small scale, but the problem is larger than that:

On average, only slightly more than half of the students who start at a fouryear college or university will graduate from that school with a bachelor’s degree within six years. Although some of these students will eventually graduate from another school, most will not.

College completion rates overall have been falling. THese two things compound year over year as well.

But remember, American colleges and universities are graduating only slightly more than half the students who walk through their doors. Much of the cost of dropping out is borne by individual students, each of whom may accumulate large debts in the unsuccessful pursuit of a degree and give up the higher earnings that accrue after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

The problem is systematic. Of course we need more degrees, which result in higher incomes for our residents. Consequently, we also need to provide the open and flexible learning that adults need. That is the key,

If we look at Louisiana alone, the report indicates that the 2002 cohort of non-graduate state residents have lost $106 million. The federal taxes on that amount would be $16 million, also lost. That is over one year’s time. Think about that doubling the next year, tripling the next and so forth. What are we losing today?

The conclusion of the report states:

Students who start college but do not graduate incur large personal expenses. They pay thousands of dollars in tuition, they likely take out loans, they change their lives, but they fail in one of the most important goals they have ever set for themselves. In the meantime, taxpayers pay billions of dollars in grants and state appropriations to support these students as they pursue degrees they will never earn.

As a program, CALL has attacked many of these issues. We have kept costs low by using regionally accredited, well-respected state institutions. We focus on adults changing their lives for themselves by harboring a very focused attention to detail for incoming students. And we do allow and promote support for our adult students. Because we know they are coming back for the right reasons. We know they are coming back to help themselves and their family. As much as CALL has espoused the conquering of personal goals for our students, we also harness a very strong community amongst our member insitutions, our various faculty members and even our students.

As our students are looking to provide for those around them, so is CALL.

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