For the first time, over one-third of adults in the United States have a bachelor’s degree or higher. But while more adults than ever now possess at least a four-year college degree, college graduation rates need improvement. According to an article by CNBC, only 54.8% of students who enroll in college will graduate in 6 years or less.
Increasing the number of students who complete a degree program is a challenge that requires a fresh approach. Studies show that the old strategies are no longer working. College graduation rates remain lower than what is desirable in a time when the benefits of a college education are so clear. And today, the financial health of universities depends on student retention.
The Consequences for Colleges
When students drop out of school in large numbers, it impacts the financial health of the academic institution. College and university administrators face a tough challenge considering the pressure to meet financial goals without raising tuition.
While tuition rates have in fact remained steady over the last few years, and in some cases even seen a slight decline, colleges are in need of a solution that doesn’t require painful cost reductions. Focusing on student retention in order to increase college graduation rates is a viable solution.
To solve the problem, many schools are turning to companies such as Nuro Retention that specialize in data analysis to identify at-risk students. This allows colleges and universities to focus on these students, offering them the support they need to complete their degree.
The Consequences for Students
About half of all college students do not graduate, even though earning a degree provides many advantages. They include a wider worldview, well-rounded education, and increased earning potential. A study from the University of Maine even found that college graduates are healthier and happier than those who do not graduate from college.
The study says that college graduates report having good or very good health at a rate 44% higher than non-college graduates. They’re also less likely to smoke and more likely to regularly exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
There are financial benefits, as well. The Economic Policy Institute reports that the wage gap between college graduates and those without a degree has grown over the past decade. College graduates make more money than non-college graduates, $24,000 a year more according to the federal government. The unemployment rate is affected too, with college graduates having an unemployment rate half that of those without a degree.
One of the challenges colleges and universities are focusing on is the economic circumstances of incoming students as they relate to student retention.
According to studies, the graduation rate among college students often falls along economic lines. While the number of students enrolling from lower-income families has increased in recent years, their college graduation rates have not.
In the article “Growing Wealth Gaps in Education,” written for the journal Demography and reported on in the New York Times, researcher Fabian Pfeffer from the University of Michigan found that graduation rates for the lowest income students are only 11.8%.
By contrast, those from the middle-income group graduated 32.5% of the time. Students from the highest income group graduated 60.1% of the time.
It’s led to a concerning situation where the gap between the number of rich and poor incoming students has shrunk, but the gap between college graduation rates has increased.
As a result, students with little financial resources who don’t complete a degree program can find themselves owing thousands in student loans without the benefit of the higher wages a college degree provides.
The problem of student retention won’t be solved overnight, but companies like Nuro Retention are providing new, promising solutions. This type of innovative problem solving has the potential to change recent trends, leading to a better outcome for both students and the schools they attend. When college students complete their degree programs, it’s a win for both.