Gates: It’s completion, not costs

Completion is a bigger problem than rising college costs, argued Bill Gates at an Aspen Institute forum. Or as Jordan Weissmann puts it in The Atlantic:  The World’s Richest College Dropout Urges Colleges to Stop Dropouts.

. . . for most students — the ones who don’t go to schools covered in ivy — the real problem isn’t necessarily cost; it’s completion. It’s our country’s abysmal graduation rates – less than sixty percent of undergraduates finish a bachelor’s degree within six years; less than 30 percent finish two-year programs on time – which have fallen well behind much of the industrialized world. We’re on pace to produce millions fewer college graduates than our economy will need in the coming decades, Gates argued, and a big part of that is our inability to get students already enrolled in college to graduation day.

Instead of ranking colleges based on their students’ SAT scores,  we should  reward schools that “take people with the low SAT and actually educate them well,” Gates said.

That begins with getting better data and making it public, Gates argues. The government has attempted to hold for-profit universities accountable for the graduation and employment outcomes of their students. Non-profit schools should be subjected to similar scrutiny, Gates said. . . . he believes the peer pressure will force more institutions to focus on teaching quality, and getting them across the finish line.

“It’s no exaggeration to say whether it’s about income equity, racial equity, the key is to make this overall education system work for everybody in the country,” Gates said.