Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Van Wilder and graduation rates.

I totally do not get the appeal of Ryan Reynolds, or for that matter the majority of People magazine’s sexiest men alive, but I always appreciate a good pop culture reference and applaud Ben Miller for a totally appropriate “Van Wilder” lede. It comes in an Education Sector brief on how little difference measuring graduation rates over eight years makes, compared to the now-used six. (Or four and two, for community colleges.)

What Ben found doesn’t surprise me, but the quantification is powerful: People who don’t get a diploma six years after starting a four-year college are highly unlikely to have gotten it another couple of years later either. I’m sure that once you are off track to graduate, the complications of time and life and credit transfer conspire to intensively corrode your ability to complete—in a way tacking just another year or two on to the typical college experience does not.

There seems to be a pretty clear message here: Instead of just extending the finish line, figure out how to get people to it sooner. Journalists have a lot to add here by illuminating, through real-life stories, just what hurdles are standing in the way.


  1. Economically, some college is the worst of all worlds. Students are saddled with debt without the higher salary a degree might offer. One solution: instead of trying to rush kids to a finish line they'll never cross, keep kids who have no hope of graduating from entering college and taking on the debt in the first place. Maybe instead steer them towards trade school or apprenticeships that are more likely to actually pay off.

  2. The college timeline may be like the high school timeline. As a former principal of a transfer school in NYC..another year or two does make a difference. I had students who took 7 years to graduate..is it ideal? No! But some students take longer. Unfortunately, the school didn't get 'credit' for these students and they were branded as 'dropouts' because they failed to make the cutoff. Some students just take longer to find their way and they should be allowed to enjoy the journey..