Are States Really Losing Money Because of Low College-Graduation Rates?

by George Leef

That’s the thrust of a new report published by the American Institutes for Research.

I don’t think the reasoning is sound. The students who start college but don’t graduate are mostly academically marginal, and we have good evidence that even among students who do graduate, learning is low to nonexistent for many of them. It’s hard to see how just completing the necessary credits in courses that the students don’t really want to take does much to improve their later productivity. Furthermore, we know that many of the graduates end up working in occupations that require no academic preparation and don’t pay well. If we increase the numbers of graduates, won’t most of them find employment (if at all!) in “high school” jobs? Rather than increasing output and tax revenues, it seems that states would just be throwing good money after bad by spending more on programs to increase graduation rates.