College Dropouts

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

William G. Bowen, former president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, former president of Princeton University and the co-author of Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities, talks about the surprising findings on college graduation rates.


William G. Bowen

Comments [32]

Dorothy from Manhattan

Couple comments...

I grew up in extreme poverty and my focus was never "long term" enough to include college. I was concerned about that I would eat that day, whether or not Mom would be drunk when I got home, and if the electric would still be on. Going to college was up there with space travel - not even a consideration.

At 24 I realized I needed to go to school or I'd be a waitress the rest of my life. I had no idea what I wanted to do but went anyway. It didn't last too long because I had to work full time and with a full class load - I was exhausted all the time. I just couldn't justify the effort when I had no clear goal in mind.

Last but not least, found out at a much later age that I had a pretty high IQ and preceded to educate myself. I was lucky enough to be able to do this through the Internet so I ended up with a decent career. If it weren't for the Internet, I'd be slinging hash.........

Sep. 09 2009 11:41 AM
red herring block

not here atlanta, besides who cares? is hispanic white or black etc etc

Sep. 09 2009 11:34 AM
Abby Stokes from New York

I opted out of college because it seemed like an awful lot of money when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with myself. Big investment unknown return. Turned out not to be a bad decision as I have authored 3 books ("Is Thing Thing On?") and have my own business. Not following the path opened up my ability to think out of the box.

Sep. 09 2009 11:31 AM
the truth from bkny

That is the same myth white people keep spreading about welfare...there are more whites than Black receiving...believe it!

Sep. 09 2009 11:30 AM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

This issue hits home for me. I grew up in a low-income immigrant family that couldn't afford to send me to the college of my choice even though I had excellent grades. So I worked my way through school at a public university. I feel I am pretty well educated BUT...I am now in my 30s and still feel the repercussions, especially in New York, where I have encountered the fact that employers are more likely to hire someone from an expensive, name-brand college than someone who went to a state school. It's very elitist.

Sep. 09 2009 11:29 AM
the truth from bkny

The problem is NOT much more serious in the Black Community than white, re-read the statistics bill!

Sep. 09 2009 11:29 AM
the truth from bkny

Boys having more trouble is NOT (she took the words write out of my hand) defined by race it is all races!

Sep. 09 2009 11:28 AM
the truth from bkny

Absolutely need better guidance counselors...

Sep. 09 2009 11:28 AM

L from Brooklyn - you're right - art school is conservatory format - my preferred learning milieu. Much more dynamic. Maybe MFAs have become so popular because of the need to concentrate on one's visual training.

I also agree with the gap year idea - it can give a student a broader context to which course content can be related, or another way to help form academic goals.

Sep. 09 2009 11:28 AM
KC from Upper West Side

I attended a several fairly well known conservatories here in Manhattan in the late 80's. The department chairs and administrators couldn't care less that my teacher was falling asleep during my voice lessons. Another conservatory recruited me for it's early music program because of my uniqueness, then never lifted a finger to get me into opera productions. Colleges and universities are in the business of taking money from students, parents, states, and the federal government. Educating and being concerned about the well-being of the students and making certain students - particularly men of color succeed and complete their degrees - are not a priority for the people bringing in the dollars.

Sep. 09 2009 11:27 AM
Hillary from new york, ny

There was an interesting study that began to explore the relationship between student services expenditures and graduation rates.

The study found that increased spending on student services had even more impact at colleges with a high number of students with low SAT scores. Schools that increased spending by $500 per student per year could see a 1.7% increase in six-year graduation rates. Increased spending on student services also resulted in raising the graduation rates for first generation college students.

More support = more success. Especially at a time when many colleges are cutting student support positions because of budgets.

Sep. 09 2009 11:26 AM
marcia from middletown, nj


What about the cost of the applications? That's what hindered me from applying to better schools because I could not afford the money for the applications and so took what little money I had to apply to the safe school where I knew I could get in. I ended up going to a state school that was way below my ability and was discouraged by the lack of challenge.

Sep. 09 2009 11:25 AM
Glenn from Union Sq

I'm an adjunct professor at a small college and I am amazed at the students' grasp of basic skills. It is most evident in their inability to write and make a persuasive case through their writing. And, these are students in their last year of college.

Sep. 09 2009 11:24 AM
dannyiselin from Woodbridge, NJ

When I taught in a suburban high school comprised of mainly minority and immigrant students, I found it wasn't a matter of remediation that was a given of college matriculation, but the prevailing attitude that college is merely an American commodity open to anyone and not a meritorious attainment based upon academic qualification

Sep. 09 2009 11:24 AM
maw from ny,ny

It's all about money. I'm one of the 9% referred to earlier - my mother & siblings were all high school drop-outs. My major issue now that I have a decent job with decent pay is grad school. Whereas my undergrad education was paid for through scholarships & financial aid (I was very lucky), I feel limited in applying to grad schools because the same help just isn't available. I have no financial safety net, unlike many of my friends who were able to depend on their parents through the process (GRE, language training, app fees - all very expensive). From front to back, both undergraduate & graduate, the educational system seems more to me about money & politics and less about student advancement. Very, very frustrating!

Sep. 09 2009 11:23 AM
Elisain Pena from Brooklyn

I just graduated from the College of Staten Island. I worked many hours at retail while going to school and it took me 5 years to graduate simply because I could not take more classes than I could have.

Sep. 09 2009 11:23 AM
hjs from 11211

are all 18 year olds ready for the culture shock: moving to the dorms, the new lift style, and learning in a new way. plus some have to work and are home sick

Sep. 09 2009 11:22 AM

Also I really think that accomodation needs to be given to "live" learning (which is what creativity learning really is) as opposed to "dead" learning (which is what a great part of what HS and college are)

Sep. 09 2009 11:22 AM
L. from Brooklyn

I attended an excellent public art and design college, Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston. But despite the fact that it was a fabulous school, it was *impossible* to finish there in four years with a full professional skill set, because it's a fallacy to base art and design programs on the four-year academic model. There was no thought given to the specific needs of design students (the work is VERY time-consuming, in a way that people outside these industries do not comprehend), and they just threw academic requirements at us without considering our actual schedules and work needs. In addition, the state imposed academic requirements that made no sense for us. Visual and design disciplines require something more along the lines of apprenticeship. Some art schools have successfully separated academics and studio programs, such as the Museum School, where students have all their academics in one year, with no studio classes mixed in. I wish MassArt had done this for us. I realize this is specific to design and art schools, but that's relevant to many people.

Sep. 09 2009 11:20 AM
Daniel chavez from Brooklyn

I think many minority students in college follow a misguided course due to being misguided by 'counselors' secondary to "profiling.

Sep. 09 2009 11:19 AM
brad from brooklyn

On students taking longer to graduate- I know that many of my friends in public universities had difficulty getting access to many of the required courses they needed to graduate in their major. Because of this, they took additional time to graduate, and paid a lot of additional money.

I'd be curious if this is as wide-spread as it seems, and whether the additional cost is a disincentive for the colleges to fix the problem.

Sep. 09 2009 11:19 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

I got tossed out of St. Peter’s College in Jersey City in 1965 for academic deficiency. I was 18, and had no idea what I’d do next. I worked out a night school deal with the Dean of Students, Went to Wagner for a year, went back to St. Peter’s and graduated. I was more frightened of not having a degree, than I was motivated by the prospect of success.

Sep. 09 2009 11:19 AM

I was a college hopper - I would attribute that to ADD etc. (35 years ago) I could only take so much school at a time. I don't thinks that's such a bad thing - I did finish (art school) and got some substantial commissions and was specified for amazing projects. My mind was wandering too much to build a career, in the end. Since there is so much ADD etc - it should be factored in.

Sep. 09 2009 11:17 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

Most of the people I knew who dropped out of college didn't really know what they wanted to do, and were pretty much going because it was what they were "supposed" to do, which isn't a great motivator. Maybe not every 18-year-old is cut out for a four-year institution.

Sep. 09 2009 11:16 AM
Edward from NJ

On an anecdotal basis, I know several people who were a few credits or required courses shy of graduating from college. They attended for 4 or 5 years and just decided to move on as their peers graduated. Is this a widespread phenomenon based on the research?

Sep. 09 2009 11:16 AM
In Chicago

Chicago public schools have a 50 percent failure rate. Half of the students entering high school this year won't graduate. I would not put a kid in "gen pop" at a Chicago Public School...a magnet or charter, yes.

Sep. 09 2009 11:16 AM
louisa from brooklyn

I think a helpful approach could be for the junior or senior in high school to feel like they have options outside of the realm of immediate enrollment in higher education. I think the pressure to not not reason enough to immediately immerse ones self into a world they may not be ready for...

Sep. 09 2009 11:15 AM

Have requirements for civil service jobs (especially cops and firefighters) been toughened to require some college?

Also, are there any breakout numbers for recent immigrants?

Sep. 09 2009 11:13 AM
Liz from Washington Heights

Is there a correlation between gender and graduation rates? I know very smart women who got pregnant during their undergrad and they ended up dropping out to care for their child. Some go back but it takes much longer to earn that first degree.

Sep. 09 2009 11:10 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

My undergraduate school prides itself in firing 30% of the incoming freshman class after 1 year. And I also see this as a good thing.

Sep. 09 2009 11:02 AM
hjs from 11211

like, this college stuff is hard! they made me take science. not like high school at all. I thought it would be more like filling in dots and stuff. besides all that studying gets in the way of my partying! I had to do what was best for me, my parents understand.

Sep. 09 2009 10:04 AM
Mike from Manhattan from NYC

When I was an undergraduate, 40 years ago, the high percent of students who were pushed out of my state university by the end of their 2nd or 3rd semester was considered an indication of the school's rigorous academic standards. (Help was available at the study center for those who needed it, but that is beside the point here.) It was the democratic version of the highly selective model of the elite, private colleges that is assumed to ensure high academic standards at those schools. Everyone with a diploma from a high school within the state could give the university a try, but only those who could reach the standards could remain. The elite, private schools are even more selective now, and their prestige (which means the real value of the degrees they grant) has increased relative to public schools. The reputation of public universities has declined, despite the fact that many have become less democratic, i.e. that they are now more selective. How can public universities, and the middle class students who can only afford them, maintain the value of their degrees while offering a chance to late bloomers and hard working students who are ready to change the bad habits of their childhood?

Sep. 09 2009 08:36 AM

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