How to Improve Graduation Rates at Community Colleges

“Community colleges are intended to be gateways to careers or to four-year colleges offering bachelor’s degrees. Unfortunately, they have very low graduation rates. Just 20 percent of full-time students seeking a degree get one within three years. That number rises to 35 percent after five years, but by then another 45 percent have given up completely and are no longer enrolled. With graduation rates that low, community colleges can be dead ends rather than gateways for students,” the Upshot reports.

“Graduation rates are low in part because community colleges can’t exclude poorly prepared students. Unlike selective schools, they are required to take anyone who walks in the door, and they have to work harder to get those students to graduation.”

“But an initiative at the City University of New York shows enormous promise for improving graduation rates at community colleges. The program, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), nearly doubled the share of students graduating within three years (to 40 percent from 22 percent). ASAP also increased the share enrolling in a four-year college (to 25 percent from 17 percent), so it may also, in time, increase the share earning a bachelor’s degree.”

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