HARTFORD, CT — A report issued by an education policy group Tuesday questions graduation rates at Connecticut’s four-year colleges and suggests that the state’s workforce may be suffering.
The Education Reform Now CT report, titled “Less For More: Low Rates Of Completion And High Costs At Connecticut’s Four-Year Colleges,” focuses heavily on minority and low-income student success.
“To make the promise of a quality college education a reality for all, Connecticut’s system of higher education should create wide and equitable opportunities for students while preparing our broad workforce to meet changing business demands,” the report says. “Unfortunately, in comparing six-year graduation rates and net prices among Connecticut bachelor degree granting colleges … we have found a number of troubling trends in the state’s higher education system.”
The study reviewed 22 of the state’s 27 public and private four-year schools and compared them against similar institutions around the country. Comparison data on the other five were not available for the report.
Education Reform Now CT was particularly critical of the graduation rates at Western Connecticut State University, Mitchell College and Bridgeport University.
“Connecticut has three four-year colleges that regularly graduate less than half of their first time, full-time student populations within six years of initial enrollment. … The low completion rates at these colleges suggests that the majority of students who enter spend time and incur debt without gaining a credential or degree that will have made their investment worthwhile. Debt without degree is one of the worst higher education outcomes a student confronts,” the report says.
The report also listed four “double offenders” that post relatively low graduation rates combined with comparatively high student costs: Southern Connecticut State University, University of Bridgeport, University of Hartford and Western Connecticut State University.
A spokesman for the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education, which oversees the four state universities, the online-only Charter Oak State College and 12 community colleges, said state officials are committed to improving success rates for college students and keeping costs down.
“Equity remains a concern at institutions across Connecticut, and it remains a top priority for CSCU,” spokesman Leigh Appleby said in a statement. “That is why we continue to work to improve transfer pathways between two- and four-year institutions, to ensure that with hard work, every student can earn an affordable, top quality degree in their chosen field. It is also why we have continued to focus on removing non-academic barriers to graduation that all too often prevent students from attaining their credential.”
Amy Dowell, state director of Education Reform Now CT, said the results of the study are important to share with consumers, who must choose carefully where they earn a degree.
“College dollars are scarce for many families and they want to be making the best investment,” Dowell said.
She said Education Reform Now CT is planning to use the report to focus on three key needs: college preparedness in the K-12 school system, mentoring of college students on academics and lifestyle, and attention to overall declining college enrollment in Connecticut.
“The takeaway from this study is that too many Connecticut students are simply not set up for success. Connecticut can and should do better by its students,” Dowell said in a statement. “This data shows that our institutions of higher education are sometimes leaving our most vulnerable students worse off than before they enrolled. When we ask young people to take on debt without even earning the credentials that will allow for paying it off — that also has a compounding effect on our state economy.”
She said the group will be working with legislators and education officials on changes needed at the state level to improve college graduation rates. The organization advocates in Connecticut and nationally for public charter schools and public school choice.
“Almost certainly, our institutions of higher education could do more to counsel these students and support them throughout their academic careers,” Dowell said. “But we can’t lose track of the underlying problem: namely, that our public school system isn’t producing graduates who are ready to succeed in college. It’s time for change.”
Nine colleges earned favorable reviews in the study for their high graduation rates among minority students.
Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Trinity College, United States Coast Guard Academy, University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University and Yale University all had graduation rates above 60 percent for minority populations.