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Wednesday Churn: Bad completion news

Updated 10:40 a.m. – Educators and policymakers have been fretting for some time about America’s college completion rates.

But a new study from Complete College America, “Time is the Enemy,” concludes the problem may be even more serious than many people realized. The report claims to present a fuller picture because it includes part-time and older students, not just the full-time and younger students typically tracked in higher ed statistics. The report covers 33 states, including Colorado.

Key findings include:

  • Part-time students rarely graduate.
  • Low-income and students of color face the greatest challenges to graduation.
  • Students take too many credits and take too long to graduate.
  • Remediation systems are broken and produce few students who graduate.

“The longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success” in college, the report concludes.

Examining Colorado, the report projects these stats for 100 students who enroll in a public college or university:

  • 59 will attend a four-year school, 56 full-time and three part-time. 30 of the full-time students will graduate in eight years and 1 of the part-timers.
  • 42 will attend a community college, 21 full-time and 20 part-time. Only six of the full-timers will graduate in four years and just one part-timer.

(See full Colorado report here.)

Complete College is a national project that advocates for improved higher ed graduation rates and provides funding to states. Colorado recently received a $1 million grant from the group to improve remedial education (see story).

Gov. John Hickenlooper has made a priority of reducing the college remediation rate, a piece of the completion puzzle. A legislator/citizen study panel also is working on this issue and is kicking around the idea of awarding “automatic” associate degrees to students who’ve moved from community colleges and picked up sufficient credits at a four-year school to earn an AA.

More information:

What’s churning:

Metropolitan State College officials reported this week that this fall’s number of Hispanic students has reached 18.2 percent of undergraduate enrollment, a 12 percent increase from last year.

The college has been working towards becoming a Hispanic-serving institution, an official federal designation that requires 25 percent of enrollment be Hispanic students. The designation would bring with it access to additional amounts of federal assistance, programs and grant opportunities.

Metro’s overall fall enrollment is down 1.6 percent at 23,828 students, with 31.6 percent students of color.

Although traditionally an open-access college, Metro has been trying to manage its enrollment because of space limitations at the Auraria Higher Education Center, which it shares with two other institutions. Buildings now under construction will add 173,000 square feet of classroom and office space by next fall. Metro also is penalized somewhat by the current higher education funding formula and has not been fully funded for enrollment growth in recent years.

What’s on tap:

The state Capital Construction Assistance Board meets starting at 1 p.m. at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. Agenda

An Adams 50 Westminster candidate forum begins at 6 p.m. at Westminster High School. District 50 is sponsoring the debate. The six candidates are running at-large; the three receiving the highest number of votes win. The election could determine the fate of the district’s standards-based education reform. Learn more about the candidates here.

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