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Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

Search Engines May Hinder College Success

Howard Block writes equity research on education companies for Banc of America Securities. He is one of my former PhD students.

Block’s prior work under me has lent him a somewhat unique perspective on education equities. He recently wrote a lengthy report on the dangerous combination of search advertising and college admission. Its theme dovetails quite nicely with my work on K16. I may reference Block’s report in a few of my entries, such as this one:

The process of deciding whether to attend college, let alone selecting the proper institution, is a complex process that should not be mediated by a search engine or directory site. Nonetheless, students, particularly non-traditional students, are increasingly relying on search engines in order to make these decisions. As an unfortunate consequence, Block does not expect graduation rates to improve from the current low levels.

The availability of public graduation rate data is extremely limited, and there is typically a lag of six to eight years between the time a cohort group enters school and when their graduation rate data is made available. However, Department of Education (DOE) data from 2004, which was made available one year ago, provides some helpful insight.

The graduation rate for students who completed their Bachelors degrees within 150% of the normal time was 57% for the 1998 cohort year. (Knapp, L.G., Kelly-Reid, J.E., and Whitmore, R.W. (2006). Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2004; Graduation Rates, 1998 & 2001 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2004 (NCES 2006-155). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.)

However, further examination of the data indicates that graduation rates by institution type were
53% at public schools,
64% at private non-profits, and
a disappointing 25% at private for-profit institutions.

The reasons for low graduation rates are myriad, as are the many ways of classifying them. Students who are:
ill-prepared academically or are considered not ready for college,
ill-prepared financially or lack the support for college,
Ill-prepared socially or lack the skills to prosper away from home.

Another less-cited factor is that too many students are in the wrong schools – schools that may not offer the preferred or most suitable academic program, social setting or environment. And that is one of Block’s primary points – increasing use of search engines to select a college is going to result in more flawed selections and ultimately more dropouts. More on this topic later.

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