U.S. graduation rate lower in part to financial concerns

The United States has lower higher-education enrollment and graduation rates than other nations, according to a recent USA Today report.

The study, conducted by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, found that the U.S. ranks seventh among developed nations for 25 to 34-year-olds with college degrees.

The University seems to be following suit, boasting a 59.8 percent graduation rate. This latest number was drawn from degree-seeking freshmen that entered the University in 2000 and graduated within six years – the figure hasn’t fluctuated much in the past several years, according to the University’s institutional research department.

“I think a large part of it is the financial concern,” said Bill Knight, assistant vice president of Planning and Accountability at the University. “In many other countries the state or federal governments will pay for higher education, so there is no tuition.”

Overall, Ohio has a 65 percent graduation rate for students who began their study at main campuses at public universities and completed their bachelor’s degree within six years, according to the latest report on the Ohio Board of Regents Web site.

The report showed that Ohio University has a graduation rate of 70 percent, Kent State – 42 percent, Miami – 79 percent, Ohio State – 56 percent and Toledo – 40 percent.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, told USA Today that she has ideas for making higher education “affordable, accessible and consumer friendly for all Americans.

“In order to remain a leader in the global economy, our nation must adapt its higher education system to prepare Americans for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

For many families, the cost of higher education is simply becoming unaffordable. On average in this country, a year at a public four-year university costs 31 percent of a family’s income, according to USA Today.

In 1999 the Ohio General Assembly created “Success Challenge” which provides funding to universities to assist students who graduate in four years and to encourage economically at-risk students to complete their degree, according to the Board of Regents Web site.

“Also, in other countries there really isn’t much room for experimentation,” Knight said. “Here, students tend to transfer to other institutions. It seems that it is much more acceptable to move around or drop out and start working.”

The federally defined Institution Graduation Rate is the percentage of an entering class of full-time degree seekers who actually graduate from the same institution, according to the Board of Regents. Thus, when students transfer it has a negative effect on the university’s graduation rate, despite the fact that these transfers may still graduate from a different institution.

“I certainly don’t consider a student who transfers to be a failure,” Knight said. “I started my freshman year at Ohio State then moved to Kent and I think I turned out OK.”

The statistic often overlooked, according to Knight, is 72 percent of students who enter an Ohio public university as a freshman graduate from a given Ohio university within six years.