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Five Questions to Ask: College Completion

  1. Look at the graduation rates for the past five years for the community colleges and four-year colleges that you cover.Have these increased or decreased, and—if so—why?Have they started any new initiatives to improve graduation rates?
  2. One crucial question to the college completion agenda is the balance between access and graduation rates.

    If, as many people argue, the most efficient way for colleges to improve their graduation rates is to enroll high school graduates with higher grade point averages and college admissions test scores, then students with less competitive credentials could be shut out of higher education. How have the colleges you cover managed this balance over the years and are the scales starting to tip in one direction?

  3. Another key question regarding graduation rates is the socioeconomic backgrounds of a college’s students. It is commonly thought that the less affordable a college becomes, the less likely its students are to graduate. What the financial aid policies and practices of the colleges you cover and the average student debt loads for their graduates? How have cuts in state funding and the general economic slump affected the net prices students have to pay to earn a degree?
  4. What percentage of first-year students at the colleges and universities you cover have to take remedial or “developmental” education courses? What percentages of those groups go on to earn degrees? Many advocates for improving college graduation rates assert that these courses present a major obstacle, leading students to accrue debt for courses that don’t count toward a degree. Are there any initiatives to change how these courses are handled at these colleges?
  5. Are the demographics of your community changing and, subsequently, are the populations of the colleges in your region in flux? If colleges and universities are to meet the 2020 and 2025 graduation goals proposed by the president and organizations, these institutions likely will have to educate many more Latino, black, and low-income students, the precise groups they historically have struggled with.