Reconnecting Higher Ed - What to Do?

Higher education seems to be splitting into two different socioeconomic camps: one for high school grads coming from "advantage" backgrounds (increasingly the minority of college-bound students), heading off to pricey private colleges or prestigious state universities (e.g., UConn), and the growing majority of underrepresented, first generation and otherwise challenged students often lacking the "back home" support to thrive in higher ed.

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Why and How We Should All Be Concerned About College Student Retention

The degree to which college students are capable of successfully moving from matriculation to graduation, described as “retention” or “persistence,” should be a concern for all of us.  Employers regularly complain that the skills needed for the workplace are lacking.  Policy wonks lament the declining ratio of productive workers to retirees, now about three to one, down drastically from decades ago – an ominous threat to the solvency of the Social Security system, as well as the viability of the economy and the health care system.

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College Retention is Everyone’s Challenge

For generations past, graduation from high school was adequate and more or less guaranteed employability at a living wage. College was for the rich and otherwise privileged minority on their way to a business or professional career, and to continued advantage.

That division of labor, well-suited to an economy in need of many trainable entry-level employees, no longer meets our economic and social needs. Education and skill requirements for an increasing number of 21st century jobs continue to escalate.

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College Bills Require Strategy

According to The College Board, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the cost of tuition more than doubled between 1973 and 2013; per student borrowing increased from $1,066 in 1970 to $6,928 in 2012; the number of borrowers more than doubled over the past decade; and 41 percent of student borrowers who began college in 2003 had at least $10,000 in educational debt in 2009. (5 percent had at least $50,000 in debt.) Even more troubling, 15 percent of those not enrolled and with no degree had between $10,000 and $30,000 in such debt.

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