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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

EdTrust Report on Failing Higher Ed

More than $15 billion a year in federal aid flows to four-year colleges dubbed “dropout factories” or “diploma mills” in a new report out today from the Education Trust. More than 600,000 undergraduates attend such schools, according to the analysis.

The report lists colleges that have failed by one or more key metrics: Their six-year graduation rate for full-time students is under 15 percent; more than 28 percent of their students default on student loans; or fewer than 17 percent of their full-time freshman class is eligible for Pell Grants. The report says colleges and universities that fail one or more of those tests are not just low performers — “they are also objectively bad.”
Ed Trust recommends an escalating series of consequences for colleges and universities in that category. The proposal would give the institution several years to improve — and if they failed to make progress, would strip them of benefits such as the ability to confer student aid or issue tax-exempt bonds.

The report names names — and the list of low-performing colleges is varied indeed. Among the institutions that do the worst job enrolling low-income students eligible for Pell grants: Ivy League universities such as Yale, Princeton and Stanford and big state schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Virginia. The list of schools with the worst graduation rates is dominated by for-profit schools, including multiple campuses of the University of Phoenix and Colorado Technical University. But it also includes some nonprofit historically black institutions, such as Arkansas Baptist College and Concordia College-Selma. Several Jewish seminaries make the list, too, such as the Rabbinical College of Long Island and Yeshiva of the Telshe Alumni.

As for the list of schools with the highest loan default rates, for-profits dominate there, too, including a long list of campuses of ITT Technical Institutes. But there are also several nonprofits on the list, including Oklahoma State’s Institute of Technology-Okmulgee and the small Pine Manor College in Massachusetts.
The report acknowledges that “controversy is swirling” about President Barack Obama’s plan to rate colleges and eventually tie financial aid to the ratings.

“Schools falling beneath the bottom fifth percentile on these measures represent the ‘worst of the worst,’ " said Mary Nguyen Barry, a co-author of the report. She said rating schools isn’t enough; there need to be rigorous consequences for poor performance. To do otherwise, she said, “won’t protect students from a lifetime of mounds of debt, a meaningless degree or no degree at all.”

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