In the Chronicle article College Grad Rates Stay Exactly the Same, Kevin Carey concludes: “Most of the growth in higher education has come from older, first-generation, immigrant, and lower-income students. It’s easy enough for skeptics to assert that these students aren’t graduating because they’re not college material. I think this massively discounts the likelihood that institutions whose basic structures and cultures were established decades or even centuries ago, for a particular kind of student, have done a poor job of adapting to the needs of different students going to college in a different time.”
It is a significant challenge for those of us who learned and now teach in educational institutions to restructure education to improve learning for all. I have talked in earlier posts about embracing disruptive, transformational change in teaching and learning. Efforts such as the Red Balloon project, spearheaded by George Mehaffy, Vice President of AACSU, grant programs such as the NextGen learning program and others attempt to initiate discussion and action designed to improve education and access to education for all who are interested.
I’m action oriented, though, so although discussion is a necessary precursor, I really just want to try approaches. And that’s where it can be difficult-where are the resources to create an assessment scheme, pilot new approaches, and determine their effectiveness in the short and long term? If I/we/our institution had the resources, I’d encourage others and myself to jump in and try new approaches. I know I’d probably stub my toes, run into walls, trample on some things that work well and muddle through a great deal, but would hope that in that process I’d have some success with encouraging more learning and improved access to education.
That’s the gist of efforts to improve graduation rates. Regardless of how those rates are measured, it is clear that the rates can be improved. And that improvement should involve all students who are interested in a college education, not only those who have traditionally had success in the current education system.