An education statistic that should really worry us

The research group Minnesota Compass has posted a bunch of graphs on college graduation / degree completion rates in Minnesota.

One stat in that group continues to distress me: the low percentage (about 55 percent) of students at two-year colleges who graduate in three years with a degree or transfer to a four-year school. Here’s the Minnesota Compass graph:


It’s easy to think this might be good news ( the completion / transfer rate is higher here than the U.S.) but it’s not.

The Great Recession triggered a rush into the state’s two-year schools, with student headcounts jumping from just under 300,000 in fiscal 2007 to nearly 320,000 in 2011.

I’m generalizing now, but these are folks that I expected would have pushed the grad / transfer rate higher. Many were dislocated by the recession and went back to school to retrain for new careers and vocations to help them deal with the new economy.

Earning that two-year degree was supposed to be the solution.

We agonize a lot in Minnesota about high school completion rates and that’s important.

But we don’t pay nearly enough attention to the kids — and mid-career adults — who make it into college only to never finish.

It’s the worst of all possible worlds — thousands of dollars committed in cash and debt but no degree. In a future where many of the best jobs in Minnesota will demand a diploma, “some college, no degree” is not going to cut it.

— Paul Tosto