Better graduation rate will shrink college costsIn a recent feature, “Six ways parents can cut college costs,” the Christian Science Monitor makes a key observation: Just looking at tuition costs is nowhere near enough.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
In a recent feature, “Six ways parents can cut college costs,” the Christian Science Monitor makes a key observation: Just looking at tuition costs is nowhere near enough.
Instead, “the most important thing you can do is to choose a university that supports students’ success and enables them to graduate,” the Monitor states.
That’s a lesson North Dakotans, Minnesotans and their legislators should learn.
Then they should resolve to raise their state universities’ too-low graduation rates — because by doing so, they’ll be taking what might be the most efficient and cost-effective step toward making college more affordable for all.
For students and parents, there are two big reasons why a college’s graduation rate makes such a difference in costs. First, dropping out can dramatically lower a student’s earning power — power that the student had been counting on to pay back his or her loans.
The reality is that “students who start college but don’t finish are typically no better off than those who never even started, and in some cases might be worse off if they took on debt,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
Second, graduating in four years is flat-out less expensive than graduating in six, seven or eight years — even when public and private institutions are compared.
Is attending a selective private college worth the extra cost? It can be, considering that many such schools not only offer generous financial aid but also graduate 80 percent or 90 percent of their students on time.
So, when you compare paying for six years at State U. versus four years at a private college (and those graduates’ two extra years of earning power), the cost of a private doesn’t look so bad.
Add it all up, and it’s clear that boosting the graduation rates at the University of North Dakota, the University of Minnesota and other state schools would be a great way to help taxpayers get their money’s worth.
So, how to do that?
By making graduation rates a priority and learning from “best practices.”
The Washington Monthly has a useful college ranking on this issue. Called “America’s best-bang-for-the-buck colleges,” the ranking first looks at each school’s circumstances and demographics, calculates an “expected” graduation rate — and singles out those schools whose students get degrees at much higher rates than expected.
So, San Diego State University boasts a 66 percent graduation rate, 12 points better than expected, thanks to “special programs for low-income and first-generation college students, a dedicated office for the retention and success of students and a strong partnership with San Diego’s local public schools,” the magazine reports.
At California State University-Fresno, where the graduation rate also is 12 points better than expected, “department chairs reach out to every student between their second and third years to act as a point of contact and to provide support.” And so on.
Raising graduation rates is not an impossible job. It takes focus, dedication and commitment; but the effort is worth it, because the graduates join the workforce much sooner and are much less in debt when they start their careers.
That’s good for the students, their parents and the state, otherwise known as a “win-win-win.”