Connecticut Joins Effort To Boost College Graduation Rates
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
March 03, 2010
Forty-six percent of young adults in Connecticut — aged 24 to 34 — have a college degree from a two- or four-year school, but experts say that percentage is likely to decline over the next two decades unless something is done to reverse the trend.
On Tuesday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that the state has joined 16 other states in working with a new national nonprofit organization, Complete College America — funded by groups including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to boost the number of students who graduate.
"Connecticut has been known for its highly educated workforce — it has been a primary driver of our economic success over the centuries," Rell said in a statement. "Yet today we see signs of a potential slippage. This has serious implications for both our economic and social well-being. Now is the time to take bold steps to reverse these trends by focusing on the importance of a meaningful postsecondary education credential."
The alliance of states seeks to increase the percentage of young adults with postsecondary degrees to 60 percent by 2020. Nationally, 38 percent of young adults hold an associate or bachelor's degree, and those percentages are substantially smaller among black, Hispanic and low-income young adults.
Connecticut's rate of college completion is the fifth-highest in the country, with Massachusetts the leader at 53 percent.
Michael P. Meotti, Connecticut's commissioner of higher education, said that the focus in Connecticut will be less on helping students gain access to college — the number of students starting college is strong — and more on increasing graduation rates.
"The real problem is that thousands upon thousands leave Connecticut high schools and go to college within 15 minutes of their high school and never end up graduating," Meotti said. "A big part of it is that students are not ready to do college-level work when they get there."
Connecticut's elite universities and colleges have little trouble graduating most of their full-time students within six years: Yale is at 96 percent; Wesleyan University at 93 percent; and the University of Connecticut at 76 percent.
However, full-time students at the four Connecticut state universities graduate at lower rates — ranging from 38 percent to 46 percent in six years. And, community colleges have less success graduating full-time students in three years, at rates ranging from 6 percent to 23 percent. (Some are critical of the way these National Center for Education Statistics are gathered because the figures include only full-time students who are attending college for the first time.)
Meotti said that studies have shown that "minimal dabbling — taking four, five, six courses — doesn't get you anything" in terms of improved qualifications for the job market.
With so many students not graduating, Meotti said, "We do spend an enormous amount of money in this system — both taxpayer dollars and student tuition — for an educational experience that does not result in an educational credential. That is largely money that is going to waste because it's not benefiting the student who drops out and not benefiting the state's economy."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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