To Raise Graduation Rate, Colleges Are Urged to Help a Changing Student Body

In an effort to improve the college completion rate and fend off new regulations, a commission of the nation’s six leading higher-education associations is calling for extensive reforms to serve a changing college population — one increasingly composed of older and part-time students.

“This is the first time in the history of modern higher education in which all the communities have come together — community colleges, research institutions, public universities and small liberal arts colleges — and reached agreement that completion needs to be our most important priority,” said E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State University and chairman of the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment.

The report, “College Completion Must Be Our Priority,” which will be released on Thursday, calls on colleges and universities to find ways to give students credit for previous learning, through exams like the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program, portfolio assessments or other college equivalency evaluations. It also calls for more services and flexibility for nontraditional students, suggesting innovations like midnight classes, easier credit transfers and more efficient course delivery, including online classes.

“These are all very important things, they’re all unusual, and they’re things we’re not doing,” Dr. Gee said. “We concentrate most on the admissions side of things, getting the bodies in, and there’s no one in charge of seeing that they get through and graduate. I’m going to call this person the completion dean.”

Almost half of the students who begin college at a two- or four-year institution fail to earn a degree within six years.

Whether the report will lead to change is unclear. But Molly C. Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said she believed it would create a new sense of urgency. <Read more.>

Via Tamar Lewin, The New York Times.

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