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. Give students two more years and only UA cracks a 50 percent graduation rate.
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.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.
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