MDRC in the News

The Growing College Graduation Gap

David Leonhardt, The New York Times


First, some good news: In recent decades, students from modest backgrounds have flooded onto college campuses. At many high schools where going to college was once exotic, it’s now normal. When I visit these high schools, I see college pennants all over the hallways, intended to send a message: College is for you, too.

And thank goodness for that message. As regular readers of this column have heard before, college can bring enormous benefits, including less unemployment, higher wages, better long-term health and higher life satisfaction.

Now for the bad news: The college-graduation rate for these poorer students is abysmal. It’s abysmal even though many of them are talented teenagers capable of graduating. Yet they often attend colleges with few resources or colleges that simply do a bad job of shepherding students through a course of study…..

…..Already, some colleges have started to make impressive changes. Georgia State has raised its six-year graduation rate sharply. A network of 11 universities, including Kansas, Michigan State and the University of California, Riverside, are working together — imagine that — to share student-success strategies. In New York, community colleges in the CUNY network have created a program that nearly doubled graduation rates.

I’m convinced that the college-graduation problem is one of the big barriers to economic mobility — and yet also one on which we can make real progress. In the coming months, I will be telling some of the unknown success stories in higher education. I’ll also look at campuses that should be doing better…..

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