Forty-six percent of all students who enroll in college this year will not graduate with a degree within six years, according to The American Dream 2.0, a report released last month by a coalition of college presidents and civil rights advocates funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The percentage of minority students that won’t graduate in that time frame is even larger: 63 percent for African Americans and 58 percent for Hispanics.
The American Dream 2.0 details a dangerous trend in the increasing amount of college dropouts and simultaneous decrease of financial aid available to students. “We are gravely concerned by the twin challenges of declining affordability and the increasing number of students who enter college but don’t graduate,” the coalition stated on their website. The report reveals the grave state of funding higher education and seeks to fix the issue by tying the amount of aid a school receives to its graduation rate.
“Our coalition believes that the government needs to collect and annually report robust and reliable performance metrics of access, completion, costs, and labor market outcomes,” the report said. While this approach has been proposed and defeated before, The American Dream 2.0 presents fresh facts to back up the potentially controversial solution.
Students have doubled their total annual borrowing over the last decade, from $56 billion in 2002 to $113 billion in 2012, but are having more trouble completing their degrees and are leaving college with unprecedented debt, according to The American Dream 2.0. Our current system of allocating aid to colleges and students is not working and our futures’ and our country’s future is at stake.
“Student debt is not just a ‘now’ problem; it is an anxiety issue for students and families. It raises the question as to where we are headed as a country,” the report said.
Also, the report reveals intriguing data on the changing complexion of college students. People seeking higher education today do not fit the stereotypes of upper-middle class students earning degrees at traditional campuses. According to The American Dream 2.0, 38 percent of students are enrolled as part-time, only 15 percent live on campus, and 25 percent of students have children to support.
Today’s students seeking higher education in our harsh economic climate need new regulations and systems to support grant and loan funding to be successful. Schools and government agencies need to be held accountable not only for the success of funding programs but also for increasing the retention rates at schools to ensure successful graduates enter our workforce.