Middle class pocketbooks were hit hard by the Great Recession, and with the cost of attending a four-year university increasing faster than the rate of inflation, many have found that the price of attaining a college degree is simply out of reach.
The new report, assembled by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, makes some dire observations concerning the state of higher education in the U.S.
Once ranked third in the world in terms of college-educated adults, the U.S. has fallen to 16th.
While the U.S. does an admirable job enrolling students into post-secondary schools, our nation falls short when it comes to helping students complete their degree programs.
According to the report, “Seventy percent of high school graduates enroll immediately in two-year or four-year colleges, but less than 60 percent of fulltime students who enroll in bachelor’s-degree programs complete their programs within six years, and only 30 percent of students enrolling in two-year institutions complete their certificate or associate’s-degree program within three years.”
This low rate of completion can be attributed to a number of issues.
Many students lack adequate advising and counseling services, leading some to enroll in programs that do not match their interests or intellectual capabilities.
However, a much more common reason is that the cost of tuition becomes an unsustainable burden, with “more than 50 percent of students who fail to graduate [citing] the high cost of tuition and fees.”
This problem is endemic across U.S. higher education.
The cost of attending a private nonprofit four-year college has increased 150 percent in the last 30 years.
Even more shocking is the price of attending a four-year public university, which has increased by 250 percent.
While the freshman completion rate has been a visible problem in American public high schools for decades, this problem has received little attention at the post secondary level.
“Some colleges graduate less than 10 percent of the students who initially enroll; a few colleges graduate none,” says the report.
Ultimately, the best solutions to this problem include improving public disclosure of important information, such as public-accreditation reports and graduates’ earnings upon degree completion, empowering students to make better decisions in choosing a college and degree program, and expanding apprenticeship programs.
The state of higher education makes up only a part of the report. In addition to making college more affordable, the report also suggests an overhaul of the nation’s housing finance system and improvements to infrastructure and energy efficiency standards.
View the full report here.