Time, not tuition, is the enemy of completion

Time, not tuition, is the enemy of college completion, writes Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, in a Washington Postop-ed. President Obama’s campaign to limit tuition increases misses the real challenge, which is getting students to graduation, Jones argues.

Today, most college students commute to campus while juggling part-time classes, jobs and often family obligations.

The longer it takes to graduate, the more life gets in the way and the less likely that one will ever graduate. More time on campus also means that more is spent on college, adding high costs as another driver of dropouts. In this instance, time is money.

Less than half of U.S. college students complete a degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

 Because cutting time cuts costs, the president can achieve the savings he seeks for students and taxpayers by linking federal investments to college results and targeting the greatest obstacles to graduation: failed remediation programs that waste time and money; broken policies that make it hard for students to transfer credits; students roaming the curriculum excessively instead of following structured, career-focused programs; creeping credit requirements; and schedules designed more to please faculty than to help working students.

States aren’t waiting for federal leadership, Jones adds. Thirty governors have pledged to set graduation goals and develop student success plans. That includes “paying colleges for the students they graduate, not simply for those they enroll.”

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Andrew Moore

Yes – puzzled as to why Administration at least initially tacked toward tuition rather than sticking with completion.


There’s no question that college has a socializing effect on students; as a professor, I can easily see how they change even from freshman to junior year. The problem with justifications based on character and values, though, is that it raises the question of why gcelloes should be selective. Why aren’t intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, self-direction, creativity equally if not more valuable traits for less intellectually gifted students? Why should high scores on tests taken at age 17, or even superior performance in high school, have anything to do with whether you get a shot at immers[ion] in a community where those traits are cultivated and rewarded ? Sure, it’s easier for the gcelloe if you come in already having demonstrated some measure of the traits in question; they’ll have an easier time helping high performers improve their curiosity, self-direction, critical thinking, etc. than they would trying to jump-start these qualities in low performers. But who cares if it’s easier for them? In a democratic society, should people be denied access to goods that others receive, and from which they might benefit as much as more than those others, just because they didn’t emerge from childhood able to demonstrate that they somehow deserved them?

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