Are too many of Georgia’s public colleges dropout factories? New report gives state low marks.

Georgia saw a major gain in its high school graduation rate.

We typically talk about dropout rates in relationship to high schools but a new study targets four-year public campuses and takes aim at Georgia’s overall rate of college completion.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, Third Way, a self-described Washington centrist think tank, found 88 percent of four-year public schools in Georgia qualify as dropout factories — fewer than 66 percent of their students graduate within six years.

The new report, “What Free Won’t Fix: Too Many Public Colleges are Dropout Factories, examines the broad questions of college costs and outcomes.

Nationwide, there are only 80 schools (15  percent of four-year public colleges) where two-thirds of first-time, full-time students earn a degree within six years. The study warns, “The graduation rates of the remaining 455 schools are so low that if they were high schools instead of colleges, they would be flagged as dropout factories and be required by federal law to intervene to improve their completion rates.”

And the report says the cost of college did not align with outcomes: The average top-quartile school (those with good outcomes like completion, earnings, and repayment rates) charges a net annual price of $10,176, while the average bottom-quartile school (those with the worst outcomes) charges nearly $600 more ($10,762) per year.

An interesting comment from the report:

Today, more than 6.8 million students attend four-year public institutions, making up nearly two-thirds of the entire bachelor’s degree-seeking population in the United States. Close to two-thirds of all students attending these schools take out student loans in order to finance their education, with the average loan-holding student finding themselves more than $20,000 in debt four years later. And American taxpayers spend more than $10 billion dollars a year on federal Pell grants to help more than 2.7 million low- and moderate-income students attending these institutions afford a postsecondary education.

Here is information from the report about the performance of Georgia’s public colleges:

At the average Georgia four-year public school, 2/5 of students earn salaries less than $25,000/year six years after enrollment (which is the expected earnings of someone with only a high school diploma).

A student attending the average four-year public institution in Georgia has just over a 2 in 5 shot of graduating within six years, as at the average institution, the completion rate is 44.42%.

Savannah State University, Fort Valley State University, and Albany State University have three of the 10 lowest repayment rates in the country, with repayment rates of only 33.72% at Savannah State University, 35.27% at Fort Valley State University, and 35.71% at Albany State University.

And here are some nationwide findings:

At the average public school, a first-time, full-time student has less a 50-50 chance of graduating.

At 60.2 percent of public institutions, less than two-thirds of loan-holding students earn more than $25,000 after six years. At 9 percent of schools, students had less than a 50/50 shot at earning more than a high school graduate six years after they enrolled.

At those schools that contain average Pell enrollment, only 16 percent graduate at least half of their students within six years.

Only 39 four-year public institutions (7.3 percent ) boast a graduation rate higher than 75 percent.

This means that today, a first-time, full-time student who enters the average public institution is more likely to not graduate from that school than they are to graduate—a reality that should be distressing to any prospective student hoping to earn a degree from the same institution where they first enroll. In fact, there are 34 schools where these students have less than a 25 percent chance of finishing, including one school—Harris-Stowe State University in Missouri—with a completion rate in the single digits (9.3 percent).

While many may say that rising costs or a more difficult-to-serve population at four-year public institutions are solely to blame for this low performance, the data simply does not bear that out. In fact, between 2000 and 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that while out-of-pocket net price for first-time, full-time students at four-year public institutions increased by $1,700, grant aid increased by $2,400 during this same time

The report also looks at the percentage of students who took out loans to attend college and earn more than $25,000 six years after enrolling. The $25,000 was used as the benchmark because it’s what a high school grad typically would be earning six years after high school.

Some campuses have fewer than 45 percent of their students making $25,000 a year. With 86 percent, Georgia Tech leads the state and ranks fourth in the nation in students earning more than $25,000 at the six-year post enrollment mark.  (From other surveys, we can assume many Tech grads far exceed that $25,000 salary benchmark.)

Georgia Tech also boasts one of the state’s highest completion rates, 80.7 percent of its students earn a degree within six years. The University of Georgia’s degree rate is higher, at 82.8 percent.

Third Way looked at private, non-profit colleges earlier this summer and the AJC’s Janel Davis reported the findings. She reported: At the average Georgia private, non-profit school, more than 4 in 10 students earned annual salaries less than $25,000 six years after enrollment – the same pay expected of someone with only a high school diploma. Also, at these Georgia schools, 29 percent of students are unable to make payments on their student loans within three years. Emory was found to have the highest graduation, earnings and repayment rate and was one of a few schools in the country reviewed in the report to also accept more than 20 percent low-income Pell students and have a graduation rate higher than 85 percent.”

 

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
kaelyn
kaelyn

I'm the mother of a high school senior and I'd pay good money to see the names of those eighty schools!

CSpinks
CSpinks

And let's remember that these drop-out numbers represent  YOUNG  FOLKS  whose prospects for success in adult life have been substantially diminished by the same academic skills deficits which undermined their achievements in college.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@CSpinks Funny how people like you always blame someone else! Public school bad.....not,I am too lazy to try! Many very average under educated people grow up, take responsibility, and graduate from college! 

CSpinks
CSpinks

Anyone familiar with the academic skills demonstrated by many, if not most, graduates of GaPubEd is not surprised by these dismal drop-out numbers.


Inasmuch as the system "is broke(sic)," when do we start fixing it?

Starik
Starik

How many graduates of Savannah State, Albany State and Fort Valley State go into teaching in the public schools?  What was their class standing, and which school systems employ them?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik Funny how you point out public colleges that have high numbers of minorities! 

Renee Lord
Renee Lord

An unintended consequence of rating a college based on graduation rates could easily turn a school into a diploma mill. Maybe schools should be more selective admitting students on the front end or provide additional support for at risk students.

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Additional support is the key phrase. Georgia has cut higher education funding for years. Administration and fancy facilities have taken priority over faculty and staff hiring, salaries, and support. Georgians then marvel when our kids don't get into GaTech or UGA, because the universities turn to out of state student (who pay sticker price, and tend to be better qualified) to make up the shortfall. If many students are underprepared, that's not their fault, or that of professors, or even of teachers. It's of a state that has tried to do public education on the cheap since forever.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Why can there not be a minimum SAT/ACT score for entering any public college?  Just because they "graduated" from high school does not mean they are literate.  (No GHSGT).  I am especially bothered by the rates at UGA (my alma mater) and at Georgia Tech.  These institutions receive enough applicants that they can accept only the "best of the best" - so why do they only have 80% graduate after six years?  My daughter was waitlisted, then accepted - could have graduated in three years but graduated in four with a dual degree.  Why?  She apparently was more academically qualified that about 20% of the students.  What "holistic" applicant attributes got those 20% into Georgia?

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog Some kids are "special admits," and have lower SAT scores. Other kids just go astray, UGA is famously a party school.  Some get sick and have to drop out, or develop mental illnesses - kids in their late teens and early are the prime ages for bipolar disorder.

L_D
L_D

@class80olddog Nothing in the article examines why the students dropped out, what their academic status was at time of admittance, or if  students transferred to another school.  Even the "best of the best" can find that a course of study or campus isn't fitting their needs.  While GT has a greatly expanded program, 30 years ago, many student left when they realized that engineering and/or science was not what they wanted to pursue as a career.  

Life happens.  Without more data, you cannot assume that students not graduating within the 6-year time frame were not academically qualified.

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog @Starik Admits for racial diversity.  Children of politicians. Children of alumni who make nice donations. Children of faculty, or even staff. People from rural Georgia would be possibilities.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

You've brought up this sore point before. UGA does in fact have a minimum SAT/ACT score for admission. And there is much more than simply a high GPA that colleges consider when admitting students: courses taken during high school AP? College Prep. courses? UGA now requires a certain # of such courses, and if your daughter didn't take them, then that hurt her application.


And six years is now the bench-mark for college graduation since, nationwide, that's the average time it takes to graduate.

Tom Green
Tom Green

Maybe these college professors need to be judged under a similar system as they've devised for the rest of public education? They don't even have to take all students who step through the door, and college students have a "dog in the fight."

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

First, "these college professors" don't make admissions decisions. Those are made by admissions departments, under administration. Second, "these college professors" have not devised systems to judge the rest of public education, as you put it, and few academics other than those in the College of Education are encouraged to have contact with public schools (the monopoly of Colleges of Ed needs to be discussed some other time) Third, "these college professors" and many of the staff are incredibly committed to students, but grotesquely underpaid and overworked, so that too many students fall through the cracks. Have you, in fact, ever been on a college campus except as a visitor? I'm thinking not.

Tom Green
Tom Green

I have a Specialist in Education and would love to see the purveyors of educational theory deal with educational reality.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

There is an easy and simple solution to this problem.  


Put the colleges that take student loan backed funding on the hook for 50% of any loans that default.  


Right now, they are getting all the value, with zero risk to themselves - and all risk to tax payers.  If the univ/college has to take some responsibility for loan payback, then they would focus on 1) offering degrees that have value, and 2) helping the students actually stay in school - not just take their (our) money.


This is a step that can be implemented today - and retroactively for any universities w/ a large endowment.  


And it makes complete sense.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@dcdcdc 

Quite implausible since most student loans are federal loans, which legally must be paid back by the students even if the student is bankrupt.  Such student loans don't default.  And banks don't usually give such loans to students since they don't have a job or collateral, so any such loans are co-signed by the parents. Usually, any "repayment" is by the parents on the hook.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

Excuse mistake-It would have been helpful if the College Scorecard data factored in hours worked by students.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

It would have helpful if the College Scorecard data

factored in what percentage of students worked

 more than twenty hours (or 30+ hours ) a week

 while attending college. 

panthergir88
panthergir88

As a parent of a child who started class today at GCSU. I found the article to be very alarming.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@panthergir88 

I think it's well for your child to be aware of possible pitfalls...sort of "due diligence." Good for the parents too. But don't be excessively alarmed. This seems to be a general nation-wide study that doesn't take into account Georgia's specifics.


The Ga. Regents Policy divides our public institutions into 4 ranks, based on the degrees offered (only BA, BA plus MA/MS, some Ph.D.s, full range of Ph.D.s).  GCSU is in the 3rd rank, state universities. And if you look at its admission requirements, they're considerably higher than other Rank 3 state universities. (The 3 state universities mentioned in the essay have lower admission requirements.) So if your child has been admitted, that's already reassuring as to his/her final outcome.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

  Should universities bear the responsibility 

for adult student retention rates ? There

  are too many financial and social factors

  that have an impact on completing a 

  college degree that affect retention rates

  beyond the control of academic preparation

  for higher education. I had a few friends in 

  college that were academically sharp, but

  had social and financial pressures from

  home which led to the students leaving

  college.


  Savannah State University, and Albany

  State University are decent universities

  that offer higher educational opportunities

  to many students with limited financial

  means. The opportunities offered to

  many students gives them additional

  choices to obtain their goals. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

The problem of college drop out is multi-faceted. Your post and mine have addressed at least two or three.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@E Pluribus Unum 

I agree. (Full disclosure: a friend teaches at Savannah State. I am a retiree from a Ga. research university.) I'm very glad that the state offers a range of higher education opportunities for all its residents, not just the top "cream of the crop" students who will succeed wherever they go. Many of those "students with limited financial means" are the first in their families to attend college.  And those schools you mention work hard to assist them, and value their perseverance.

ZAZ
ZAZ

"As expected, Georgia Tech leads Georgia and also ranks fourth in the nation. Tech has one of the state’s highest completion rates, 80.7 percent. The University of Georgia’s rate is 82.8 percent."


Should I be confused or am I not reading this correctly? 

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@ZAZ Is this clearer?


The report also looks at the percentage of students who took out loans to attend college and earn more than $25,000 six years after enrolling. The $25,000 was used as the benchmark because it's what a high school grad typically would be making six years after leaving high school. The report doesn't distinguish whether a student finished college or not in that six years, only that they attended.

Surprisingly, many students in Georgia are not meeting the $25,000 mark. The rates are below 45 percent for some Georgia schools. 

Georgia Tech leads the state and ranks fourth in the nation in students earning more than $25,000 at the six-year post enrollment mark.  (We can assume Tech grads far exceed that $25,000 salary benchmark.) Tech also boasts one of the state’s highest completion rates, 80.7 percent of its students earn a degree within six years. The University of Georgia’s degree rate is 82.8 percent.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Giving all incoming college students standardized reading tests, and then addressing the issue of well-below-college-level reading skills with those specific students is an important way to reverse the high level of drop-out numbers of college students.


We must think, and act, outside of the box to get substantial results.

arty
arty

@MaryElizabethSings The quick way to improve reading skills is to take away the smart phones and pads, forcing students to think in complete sentences instead of sound bytes.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@arty @MaryElizabethSings 

How? Then the professor is responsible for these multi-$100 devices, and students have ways of accessing other small devices on the sly during class. And how assure that the correct student picks up the smart phone or pad when class is over?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaryElizabethSings One way to do this is to bring back the GHSGT to assure adequate reading skills.  Another way would be to require a minimum score on the SAT/ACT.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings


I was the summer school reading coordinator for the GHSGT Summer Program for all of the students in the DCSS who had failed parts of the GHSGT, for 5 summers, until I retired.  I, also, had taught SAT skills and College Level Study Skills to juniors and seniors in my high school in my Advanced Reading course for 15 years.  


The unacceptable college drop out percentages, given above, come as no surprise to me.  Perhaps one day, soon, others will listen more closely to what I have to offer through my voice and through my blog.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaryElizabethSings Thank Stephen Portch, former SUS Chancellor, who began the process of getting rid of Learning Support classes in the colleges.