Only 35% of America’s college students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years and just over half (52%) graduate within six years.
The College Completion Crisis
The percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college is increasing for all racial and income groups (NASH & Education Trust, 2009); however, these gains in college access rates are not being matched by gains in college success rates. Only 35% of America’s college students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years and just over half (52%) graduate within six years (College Board, 2009; 2014). In addition, less than 10% of American students who are considered low-income, first generation college-students graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree by the age of 24 (postsecondary.org).
For students who attend college part-time, the completion rate is even lower: Less than 25% graduate within eight years (Complete College America, 2011). In today’s unforgiving labor market, college students must complete in order to compete; if they withdraw from college without completing a workforce relevant certificate, credential or degree, their prospects for finding gainful employment will be seriously jeopardized (Collins, 2009; Carnevale, 2014). Moreover, among those students who withdraw from college, 3 out of 10 leave with loan debt (Johnson et al., 2009). Thus, students who do not complete college pay a double penalty: They incur immediate debt and, at the same time, they forfeit subsequent income (and other benefits) associated with attainment of a postsecondary credential.
School Counselors, on average, spend less than 1 hour of postsecondary education counseling per student during the entire school year.
The National Association of College Admissions Counseling estimates that due to the high student to counselor ratio, students in public schools can expect less than an hour of postsecondary education counseling during the entire school year. Additionally, the National Center for Educational Statistics has found that the national student-to-guidance counselor ratio is 488:1, where the average student spends 20 minutes per year talking to his or her counselor. The ratio of students per counselor in California averages 945:1, ranking California last in the nation (California Department of Education, 2011). High caseloads depreciate the effectiveness of school counselors as they lack the time to provide college advising services to all students (McDonough, 2005). In addition, research shows that in some high schools, particularly in urban schools, school counselors have caseloads of 1000 students or more. Furthermore, 29 percent of California public school districts have no counseling programs at all (California Department of Education, 2011). Where school counseling programs exist, school counselors are often asked to add administrative duties to their list of responsibilities, such as: testing, supervising, and class scheduling, which severely constrain counselors’ time to offer college counseling services that serve students equitably.
By 2020, 7 out of 10 jobs in the U.S., will require more than a high school diploma.
Graduation from high school became a national expectation following World War II. Today, the expectation is that all young people should continue their formal education after high school in order to compete in today’s workforce. Our “knowledge-based economy” now requires 7 out of every 10 jobs to be filled by someone who has completed at least some type of postsecondary education (Carnevale, 2014). Low-income students who never attend or graduate from college will have a hard road ahead. They are twice as likely to be unemployed. They will earn half as much as college graduates. They are more likely to end up in poverty. America’s future rests on our ability to develop the talent of all students regardless of their background.
College and Career Aspirations – Attainment Gap
Research shows that 9 out 10 students in low-income communities say they want to go to college to prepare to achieve their career aspirations. However, by the time they reach their senior year in high school, only a small fraction of students enroll in college, and of those who do start, less than 10% graduate from college by age 24 with a Bachelor’s Degree within six years (postsecondary.org). If we do not work to close the college and career aspirations – attainment gap, millions of low-income students across the globe who aspire to achieve their career aspirations or dream job will not have the knowledge, skills, relevant experiences, and the resources needed to enter the career of their choice.
College and Career Aspirations – Attainment Gap: The distance between a student’s stated college and career aspirations and the realization of completing some form of postsecondary education, specifically to be prepared to enter high skilled careers or trades.
Only 8% of Low-Income students enroll and graduate from college by age 24 with a Bachelor’s Degree within six years.
Over the past decades college enrollments rates have increased. However, research shows that there is a small percentage of low-income students that enroll in college, and of those who matriculate, only 8% graduate from college by age 24 with a Bachelor’s Degree within six years (postsecondary.org).