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Eventhough this is a flawed study...it is getting much press.




College dropouts cost taxpayers billions, report says


By Eric Gorski, AP Education Writer
Dropping out of college after a year can mean lost time, burdensome 
debt and an uncertain future for students.
Now there's an estimate of what it costs taxpayers. And it runs in 
the billions.

States appropriated almost $6.2 billion for four-year colleges and 
universities between 2003 and 2008 to help pay for the education of 
students who did not return for year two, a report released Monday 
says.

In addition, the federal government spent $1.5 billion and states 
spent $1.4 billion on grants for students who didn't start their 
sophomore years, according to "Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of 
First-Year Student Attrition in America's Four-Year Colleges and 
Universities."

The report takes into account spending on average per-student state 
appropriations, state grants and federal grants, such as Pell grants 
for low-income students, then reaches its cost conclusions based on 
student retention rates.

The dollar figures, based on government data and gathered by the 
non-profit American Institutes for Research, are meant to put an 
economic exclamation point on the argument that college completion 
rates need improvement.

But the findings also could give ammunition to critics who say too 
many students are attending four-year schools - and that pushing them 
to finish wastes even more taxpayer money.

The Obama administration, private foundations and others are driving 
a shift from focusing mostly on making college more accessible to 
getting more students through with a diploma or certificate.

Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for 
Research and former commissioner of the Education Department's 
National Center for Education Statistics, said the report's goal is 
to spotlight the costs of losing students after year one, the most 
common exit door in college.

"We're all about college completion right now, and I agree 100% with 
the college completion agenda and we need a better-educated adult 
population and workforce," Schneider said.

The cost of educating students who drop out after one year account 
for between 2% to 8% of states' total higher education 
appropriations, Schneider said. He said the report emphasizes state 
spending because states provide most higher education money and hold 
the most regulatory sway over institutions and can drive change.

Ohio, for example, has moved toward using course and degree 
completion rates in determining how much money goes to its public 
colleges and universities instead of solely using enrollment figures.

"We recognize an institution is not going to be perfect on graduation 
and completion rates," said Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio 
Board of Regents. "But at the same time, we know they can do better 
than they're doing. And if you place the financial rewards around 
completion, then you will motivate that."

The AIR report draws from Department of Education data, which 
Schneider concedes does not provide a full picture.

The figures track whether new full-time students at 1,521 public and 
private colleges and universities return for year two at the same 
institution. It doesn't include part-timers, transfers or students 
who come back later and graduate.

The actual cost to taxpayers may run two to three times higher given 
those factors and others, including the societal cost of income lost 
during dropouts' year in college, said Richard Vedder, 
an <http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Organizations/Schools/Ohio+University>Ohio 
University economics professor. And tying state appropriations to 
student performance could just cause colleges to lower their 
standards, he said.
Robert Lerman, 
an <http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/American+University>American 
University economics professor who, like Vedder, questions promoting 
college for all, said the report fleshes out the reality of high 
dropout rates. But he said it could just as easily be used to argue 
that less-prepared, less-motivated students are better off not going 
to college.

"Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money," 
Lerman said. "Who knows?"

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This 
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


-- 
Norman A. Stahl, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Literacy Education

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