Graduation Rates Stalled in Face on Rising Enrollment. New Study Identifies Reasons, Solutions

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A new report released today by Complete College America paints the first comprehensive picture of today's college student, the challenges students face and the reasons why they are not completing their degrees and certificates.

The group, Complete College America, is a nonprofit founded two years ago with financing from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and others.

The new report, Time is the Enemy: The surprising truth about why today's college students aren't graduating…AND WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE, includes self-reported data from 33 states on both full-time and part-time students at public colleges and universities - the first such compilation of these data metrics. The federal government currently requires colleges and universities to track first-time, full-time students, but 40 percent of students today attend part-time.

"We set out to tell the whole story, the story that college students today are living, not the story of a system that doesn't count nearly half the students it serves," said Complete College America President Stan Jones. "What we discovered was both alarming and compelling because we can now confirm that we need to make dramatic policy changes to ensure these students complete their degrees. By doing so, we can secure strong economies for our states and country."

Among the key findings, released today during NBC's Education Nation Summit:

* There is a new American majority on campus: 75% of students are juggling jobs and school and commuting to class; only a quarter of students go full-time, live on campus, and work very little.

* Part-time students rarely graduate: Even when given twice as along to complete certificates and degrees, no more than a quarter ever make it to graduation day.

* Students who are poor, older or of color struggle the most to graduate: Even though more of these students than ever before are enrolling in college, too few end up with certificates or diplomas.

* Students are taking too many credits and too much time to complete: Students need new, shorter, and faster pathways to degrees and credentials.

* Remediation is broken, producing few students who ultimately graduate. Efforts intended to catch students up are most often leaving them behind.

Complete College America requested information from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and 33 governors - and the leaders of colleges and universities in those states - heeded the call and submitted data, using the Complete College America/National Governors Association Common College Completion Metrics, in an effort to get a better sense of how students are faring on a majority of America's college campuses.

Collecting this level of data for the first time ever reveals a common thread that dispels popular myths about degree-seeking students: the longer students stay in school, the more likely they are to actually drop out and not earn a degree or certificate.

"Contrary to conventional thinking, more time and more choices often add up to less success," said Jones.

Key steps that states should take immediately to stem this tide and move more students through to completion include:

* Counting all students, setting state- and campus-level goals and uniformly measuring progress and success.

* Ensuring graduation, not just enrollment, is the goal, and restructuring programs to help the new majority of college students balance jobs, families and school.

* Reducing the time it takes to get a degree or certificate.

* Transforming remediation so that students get into full-credit classes and on the graduation track as soon as possible.

Time is the Enemy also provides a state-by-state look at total degrees and certificates awarded, graduation rates, disaggregated by race and age, income, average length of time to degree, transfer rates, and remedial education enrollment.

About Complete College America

Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit working to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree or credential of value and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. The organization was founded to focus solely on dramatically increasing the nation's college completion rate through state policy change, and to build consensus for change among state leaders, higher education, and the national education policy community. More information can be found at http://www.completecollege.org/.