Is America Facing A Higher Education Crisis?

In short. Yes. But it may not be in the way that you think. You probably think the main crux of the problem is that college costs too much money; something that results in massive debt and crushing pressure to succeed. However, a new report says that the real problem is graduation rate.

According to this report, a series of studies from think tank Third Way and released Thursday, an alarming number of students are entering college with less than 50 percent chance of finding work commensurate work or even graduating at all. More importantly, though, the studies continue to build on a growing body of research arguing the focus should be on college completion and not on just getting access to higher education, or lower higher education costs.

As a matter of fact, in light of recent Free Tuition proposals from Democratic party Presidential candidates, many have come forward to contest the misnomer of affordability.

“Free tuition when more than half of students fail to graduate will do little to fix the larger problem,” explains Tamara Hiler, who is an education policy adviser at Third Way. Also the report’s lead author, she goes on to say: “While addressing the rising costs of college is a worthwhile discussion, students deserve a better guarantee that if they enroll in college they will get a return on their investment of both time and money.”

Ok, but really; what are the numbers?

Well, examining the performance of students across 535 four-year [public] colleges—taken from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard—they found that not even 48 percent of first-time, full-time students will graduate within six years [at an average public institution]. Only 80 of 535 schools had a graduation rate higher than 66 percent.

Furthermore, report co-author Lanae Erickson Hatalsky attests, “We think policymakers need to shift their conversation to focus not just on sticker price but on the value an institution is providing the students they are supposed to serve.”

The vice president for social policy and politics at Third Way continues, “Federal law doesn’t currently incentivize good outcomes for students, or even give students the information they need to pick schools where they are more likely to succeed. That has to change if we are going to truly deliver on the promise of college as a ticket to economic mobility in this country.”