It takes students an average of 5.5 years to graduate from public universities, says Harry Stille, head of the Higher Education Research/Policy Center in Greenville, S.C. He is in the process of quantifying taxpayers’ cost of subsidizing students who take too long to graduate (and often just drop out without finishing). His estimate for Arizona State is $26 million a year.
An article about his forthcoming work by Jenna Ashley Robinson and Jay Schalin points out that one way to reduce this cost is to make sure that admitted students are capable of doing the work:
Stille’s list of recommendations to improve the current situation is short, simple, and sensible: state universities should not enroll freshmen who have SATs below 910 (or ACTs below 19), who graduated in the bottom half of their high school class, or who require remedial education before they can handle college-level studies.
This may seem like a straightforward remedy, but university systems routinely violate it. For example, the minimum admissions standard to the 16-campus University of North Carolina is an SAT of 800, and remediation is widespread throughout the system.
Access is paramount, even if it hurts the taxpayer and the student who never finishes.