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How Some Colleges Are Keeping Students From Dropping Out


Four out of 10 students who go to college end up with college debt but don’t graduate. David Kirp, a University of California, Berkeley professor and the author of "The College Dropout Scandal," recently joined Krys Boyd, host of Think, to talk about this problem.

On why it’s detrimental for students to start college but not finish it:

“We’re talking about 2 million kids who are going to college every year and 40% of them are not going to graduate in six years. That’s 800,000 students. Why are they maybe worse off? They’re not going to earn any more money than if they had just gone to high school, maybe a bit. But they’re going to have debt.

They’re not going to be able to get the kind of jobs that would help them pay off that debt, which means they’re three or four times more likely to default on their college loans, and that begins a cascade of woes.”

On what he describes as “new gen students:”

“'New gen students' is my term for talking about underrepresented minorities, Pell Grants students – that is students who families are working class or poor families – immigrant kids and kids [who are] the first generation in their family to go to college…Even worse off are foster kids.”

On why higher ed institutions aren't held to the same standard of accountability for helping their students graduate:

“To date, colleges get more money from the state and the federal money based on the number of bodies who show up, not the bodies who don’t graduate. So we’re talking about a 60% graduate rate. Imagine a high school with a 60% graduation rate. It’s going to be deemed a dropout factory; its principal is going to be looking for another job.”

On how colleges are using data to help them better understand how their students are doing:

“Take Georgia State. They ask the kinds of questions that lead them to see who’s likely to have difficulties succeeding in college based on their past record, and who’s likely to stick with a major they started with.

The other key part to this story. You need people in students’ lives. You need smart counselors who are going to call in the students and say, ‘Let’s look at other fields that you might study. You know, don’t put all of your eggs in this one basket. Let’s see what allied fields would give you a sense of what to do. Let’s figure out what’s getting in the way [in your personal life].'"

You can listen to the rest of this episode of Think here.