The chart above is based on an analysis done by The New York Times and the Urban Institute’s Center on Education Data and Policy. We undertook this project because the college-dropout crisis is a major contributor to American inequality. Many lower-income and middle-class students excel in high school only to falter in college. They then struggle to get good jobs.
College matters so much because it isn’t just about book learning or the development of tangible skills. It’s one of the first obstacle courses of adult life. The students who complete it typically go on to earn more and live healthier and happier lives, research shows.
For too long, high-school students, parents and guidance counselors have hardly thought about graduation rates when choosing a college. And for a long time on many campuses, administrators and faculty members didn’t even know what their college’s graduation rate was.
But now people are starting to realize the stakes. “The issue of college completion is front and center for presidents and trustees,” said Ted Mitchell, a former Obama administration official who runs the American Council on Education, a consortium of universities.
Some high school administrators have also started focusing on the problem, in part out of frustration. Over the years, they have watched their hard-working, talented graduates struggle in college. “It’s disappointing, to say the least,” said Catherine Suitor, the chief advancement officer at Alliance, a network of charter schools in Los Angeles.