Saturday, July 24, 2010

College completion matters, and colleges ought to contribute to it

So, there's a new College Board report urging new focus on raising college graduations.

On the one hand, the goal in The College Completion Agenda 2010 is great: we should indeed aim to "increase the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds who hold an associate degree or higher to 55 percent by the year 2025."

On the other hand, the plan for getting there has no serious expectation for classroom change in our colleges and universities.

This is a plan for educating without educators, and an approach to students that literally calls for never approaching the students.  

Here's the list of recommendations:
  1. Provide a program of voluntary preschool education, universally available to children from low-income families.
  2. Improve middle and high school counseling.
  3. Implement the best research-based dropout prevention programs
  4. Align the K-12 education system with international standards and college admission expectations.
  5. Improve teacher quality and focus on recruitment and retention.
  6. Clarify and simplify the admissions process.
  7. Provide more need-based grant aid while simplifying and making the financial aid process more transparent.
  8. Keep college affordable.
  9. Dramatically increase college completion rates.
  10. Provide postsecondary opportunities as an essential element of adult education.
The first five items are all great ideas--for other institutions to implement.  

The next, on admissions, is about letting students into higher ed classrooms--but not about what happens for them in the classroom, the library, the writing center, or any other part of the learning experience.

The next two, on funding, are about budgets to keep students on campus--but not about what happens while they're there.

The next to last goes back to completion rates and adds an adverb ("dramatically"), but the upshot is that higher education should improve the numbers by trying to improve the numbers.  Even on this recommendation, there's no substantive thought about teaching students better, supporting them better, or serving them better. 

Finally, there's the idea of adult education programs adding postsecondary elements, roughly proposing to create more classrooms but yet again avoid discussing what needs to happen when students arrive for their classes.

Ladies and gentlemen of the academy, you have been very clear about how other institutions should change and how more resources should flow into your coffers.   

Now, what's your share of the work? 

What will you do differently, you yourselves, with and for students, to ensure a dramatic increase in college completion?  

What will change in your classrooms, hallways, offices, labs, and libraries that results in a better educated population in the next fifteen years, and how will your change come about?

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