The College-Completion Craze

by George Leef

Inside Higher Ed has a story on the college-completion craze (my term, not IHE’s) that is being pushed by the Obama administration, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation. In particular, the piece centers on the boost the craze is giving to firms in the data-analytics market. They’re telling schools with low graduation rates that they need their services in order to track student progresss.

The story elicited some devastating comments on the underlying educational reality. Here’s one:

Posted by V E McLure , Professor/English on November 9, 2010 at 9:15am EST

Sorry folks, but all the technology to calculate completion rates, student success, etc. is useless if the students aren’t successful. And, I hate to tell you this, they aren’t. We have a crisis in education and the three tenor tails are all wagging the dog. They are concerned about how many students complete but have very little concern about how they get there. In their efforts to see the end product, they are basically telling us “get them to the end however you can.” That translates to “pass them no matter what,” or at least that is how it gets to us in the classroom via the coordinating boards, etc. So, we end up with formula funding tied to completion rates which means if we don’t have success, no matter what we start with, we don’t get money. See the problem? The students I see now in college are the weakest I have ever seen. They literally cannot think critically – because they never had to in high school. They are not prepared for college in any way. Instead of concentrating on working with them to get them prepared, we’re focused on getting them out. Either we change our way of thinking or we are going to be the third world. It’s that simple.