The College Puzzle Blog
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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.

Boston Study: 7 out of 10 Graduates Start College, But Few Complete College

>Globe Editorial
>The Boston Globe
>In college, but only marginally
>December 23, 2008
>
>
>MUCH SOUL-SEARCHING is taking place on local
>college campuses after a recent study showing
>that college was a bust for almost two-thirds of
>Boston high school graduates in the class of
>2000. Students attending two-year community
>colleges-the least-expensive option-fared the
>worst in the survey by the Center for Labor
>Market Studies at Northeastern University, with
>an abysmal 12 percent graduation rate.
>
>Specific results for all public and private
>colleges in the study should be available
>shortly after Christmas. But some figures are
>trickling in. Roxbury Community College fell
>flat. Of the 101 students from the high school
>class of 2000 who enrolled in RCC shortly after
>high school, only 6 percent would go on to earn
>a diploma there-or anywhere else-by June 2007.
>Quincy College, a low-profile, two-year college
>on the South Shore, did comparatively well (but
>not good enough) by its 62 Boston students,
>posting a 19 percent graduation rate. Bunker
>Hill Community College, which drew 155 enrollees
>from Boston's class of 2000, yielded a 14 percent graduation rate.
>
>The study, which was funded by the Boston
>Foundation, strips away some of the hype about
>college attendance rates in Boston. Seven out of
>10 public school graduates may get into college,
>but many lack the preparation to succeed. At
>Bunker Hill, for example, more than 80 percent
>of the Boston students from the class of 2000
>required a remedial math course. Wisely, Bunker
>Hill and Boston school officials are now
>introducing students at some city high schools
>to the placement exams they will face on campus in the coming year.
>
>The study should put an end to common claims by
>community college officials that their
>graduation rates don't reveal much because many
>of their students transfer to four-year colleges
>before earning associate degrees. In this study,
>a student merely needed to earn a diploma or
>certificate from any institution of higher
>education, not just the original college. And by
>providing at least a six-year window, the study
>made allowances for students who often juggle
>college with work or family obligations.
>Rationalizations are now off the table.
>
>Bad numbers as motivation
>
>There will be more than a few red-faced college
>officials when the final statistics are
>released. Only about one-third of students at
>four-year state colleges pulled through.
>Students at four-year, private colleges fared
>best, with a 56 percent graduation rate. Still,
>the study is proving to be a good motivator.
>UMass-Boston, which struggles with graduation
>rates, is expected to take a lead role in
>crafting solutions. And the Boston Private
>Industry Council, a co-author of the study, is
>keeping up the pressure with plans to publish
>graduation data for future Boston public school classes.
>
>The stakes are highest at the community
>colleges, a traditional choice for students who
>struggled in high school. Mary Fifield, Bunker
>Hill Community College president, has launched a
>program that pairs remedial courses with
>college-level classes for incoming full-time
>students. Students are grouped by ability or
>academic interest and placed with handpicked
>professors who take an interest in their
>academic achievement and social adjustment. The
>college is also planning a "survival skills"
>class for freshmen, focusing on everything from
>reading class schedules to maximizing financial aid.
>
>At Roxbury Community College, officials say they
>are also launching initiatives with the help of
>a Lumina Foundation grant to provide more
>intensive advising and tutoring, as well as a
>mandatory course on study skills for
>first-semester students. Impending cuts in the
>state budget, however, threaten these offerings.
>
>Progress on the South Shore
>
>Self-supporting Quincy College, a public
>community college operated under the auspices of
>the South Shore city, may have a lot to teach in
>tough times. Although the college offers few
>formal retention programs and no on-site day
>care for its roughly 4,000 students, it manages
>to outperform some of its state-operated
>counterparts. College president Sue Harris says
>that student advisers are widely available in the evening.
>
>The college also offers so-called "nested
>semesters" that allow students to take
>accelerated courses over 10- or even 5-week
>periods in addition to the traditional 15-week
>schedule. The faster pace creates a sense of
>urgency missing on many campuses. Minority
>students, who make up 42 percent of the student
>body, appear to fare especially well at Quincy
>College. Black and Hispanic graduation rates for
>a recent class, says Harris, outstripped that of Asian students.
>
>No one believes that ill-prepared urban students
>will suddenly cruise through college. But any
>college that can't help at least half to the
>finish line needs to reexamine what value it is
>adding to the educational experience.
>
>
>© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
>

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