Blog: The Educated Reporter

Van Wilder and graduation rates.

I totally do not get the appeal of Ryan Reynolds, or for that matter the majority of People magazine’s sexiest men alive, but I always appreciate a good pop culture reference and applaud Ben Miller for a totally appropriate “Van Wilder” lede. It comes in an Education Sector brief on how little difference measuring graduation rates over eight years makes, compared to the now-used six.(Or four and two, for community colleges.)

What Ben found doesn’t surprise me, but the quantification is powerful: People who don’t get a diploma six years after starting a four-year college are highly unlikely to have gotten it another couple of years later either. I’m sure that once you are off track to graduate, the complications of time and life and credit transfer conspire to intensively corrode your ability to complete—in a way tacking just another year or two on to the typical college experience does not.

There seems to be a pretty clear message here: Instead of just extending the finish line, figure out how to get people to it sooner. Journalists have a lot to add here by illuminating, through real-life stories, just what hurdles are standing in the way.