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ERIC Number: EJ923868
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 4
ISSN: ISSN-0024-1822
The Hidden Costs of Low Four-Year Graduation Rates
Sullivan, Daniel F.
Liberal Education, v96 n3 p24-31 Sum 2010
The single most important step colleges and universities--especially public colleges and universities--can take to lower the student and family cost of college attendance is to improve retention, thereby increasing the four-year graduation rate. The author believes that institutions with high rates of retention to graduation have those high rates for three main reasons. First, they use multiple criteria--not just scores on high-stakes college entrance tests--to select for admission students who have demonstrated that they have the ability, academic preparation, and motivation to do college-level work, and they provide robust student support services to help students keep moving forward. Second, they communicate who they are clearly and honestly to prospective students and their families, and they give honest feedback to otherwise attractive applicants who should probably choose a different institution to ensure the right "fit." And third, they meet the reasonable expectations of students and their families--the very expectations they lead students and families to have of them--to a high degree, and they work hard to fix things when they do not. In addition to the obvious benefits for students and institutions, high retention rates also reduce what economists call the "opportunity costs" associated with the choice of a particular college. In this article, the author discusses the hidden costs of low four-year graduation rates. He shows that savings from lower tuition accrue to students and their families only if they complete their studies at a lower-cost institution on time. In this discussion of opportunity costs the author considers only tuition and fees, because housing and food costs must be paid whether someone is in college or not. And he looks not just at the full tuition and fees, but at average net tuition and fees--the average amount students pay after any scholarship grants they receive that they do not have to pay back--and the average net tuition and fees paid by students from the lowest quartile of family income in America. The author concludes that, when one looks at the whole picture, American colleges and universities are underperforming with regard to on-time degree attainment. (Contains 1 figure, 2 tables, and 5 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A