Mismatching Students and Institutions is a luxury Arizona can no longer afford

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has been encouraging the universities to develop lower cost alternatives to getting a four-year degree. But, the state is bankrupt and will not be able to find additional money to help create such options.

I have an idea that would help, and it will not cost a dime.

A consulting firm recently presented a report to the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board with disturbing information about completion rates. The report found that 82 percent of community college students aim to get a degree, but only **11 percent** of them have done so after three years. This completion rate puts MCCCD in the bottom 12 percent of all community college systems nationwide, the report says.

When we go to the university level, the results are little better. The Education Trust’s database of university statistics reveals the four-year graduation rates of Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University to be 28.4 percent, 32.7 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively.

Arizona’s system of higher education is doing an extremely poor job in matching students with colleges. There is a fine line between giving students an opportunity to seek an education despite previous academic failure, and simply using students as financial cannon fodder. Arizona obviously went screaming past that fine line many years ago.

We are not doing students any favors by encouraging them to run up thousands of dollars in debt to pay for school, only to flunk out. In addition, taxpayers should not subsidize six-year odysseys of self-discovery that half of the time fail to result in a university diploma

Arizona’s community colleges and universities should raise their admission standards for new students. Some, perhaps most, of the students flunking out of ASU, UA and NAU ought to be attending community colleges. Community colleges traditionally focus on remediation and are less costly to students and taxpayers.

If we would properly match students to institutions, our higher education system would both save taxpayers money and serve students better.

Those in higher education often are quick to point an accusing finger at the K-12 system for not preparing enough teenagers for college, and rightly so, but no one is forcing them to admit utterly unprepared students.

While we are at it, we might want to do something about K-12 to lower the flood of unprepared students heading to failure in higher education. High-schools, community colleges and universities should all raise their standards.

3 Responses to Mismatching Students and Institutions is a luxury Arizona can no longer afford

  1. CUStudent says:

    First: What sorts of data was collected that could begin to explain why only 11% of community college students get their degree after 3 years? It is easy enough to have a discussion about the failure of K-12 education or that students should be tracked into specific types of colleges (as if that isn’t already occurring).
    Second: I am quite curious as to what sort of plan you suggest for properly matching students to institutions so that “our higher education system would both save taxpayers money and serve students better.” Maybe your selection criteria will be based on unbiased estimators such as standardized test performance?

    Instead of this top-down mentality of reform, we should be asking how other structures in society that are intimately related to education, and a child’s academic achievement, are connected to these ‘flunk out’ statistics.

  2. Matthewladner says:

    CUstudent-

    Although there are certainly other factors involved, when you have such catastrophically low graduation rates, even at 150% of the normal time required, it seems self-evident to me that standards ought to be raised. MCCCD essentially takes anyone, and the universities aren’t terribly selective either.

    They all seem happy to take the money and flunk them out, but we taxpayers are picking up the bill for this as well.

  3. JEB says:

    Three years is not the right time frame for CC students; many attend part-time, many are older. Someone needs to do a study that aligns completion percentages with PT/FT attendance.

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