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Study Finds Graduation Rates are Rising Because College is Getting Easier

Study Finds Graduation Rates are Rising Because College is Getting Easier

“one would expect a drop in graduation rates, not the opposite”

We now have professors arguing that grades shouldn’t be given, so why should this surprise anyone?

The Federalist reports:

Study: More Students Are Graduating College Because It’s Gotten Easier

In the 1990s, only 40 percent of students who entered a four-year state college graduated within the next six years. In the 2000s, that six-year graduation rate increased—to 50 percent. But during that timeframe more poorly prepared students also entered college, so one would expect a drop in graduation rates, not the opposite.

So why did the opposite happen? A new study from Brown University, reported recently in The Atlantic, examines that question and concludes the most likely reason is that colleges have lowered their standards even further.

While student achievement over this timeframe decreased, as measured by math test scores, their college grade point averages and graduation rates increased. In other words, it appears colleges are further inflating these measures, a trend that has been documented since federal taxpayer funding of so-called higher education exploded.

“Our findings combined with trends in studying and labor force participation in college suggest standards for degree receipt have changed,” the researchers conclude. They controlled for students’ background characteristics like family income and race, the majors they choose, and the kind of colleges they attended, and found all of these “explain little of the change in graduation rates.”

“Put another way, equally prepared students with the same family income, parental education, gender, and institution type have higher GPAs” in 2004 than they did in 1998 and are more likely to graduate, write study authors Jeffrey Denning, Eric Eide, and Merrill Warnick. Other studies have found that a similar dynamic has been at work in U.S. high schools for at least a century.


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Doesn’t surprise me at all, and I don’t think this is led by profs.

University admins put tremendous pressure on their faculty to up 4 year graduation rates because of their inclusion in the metrics for college rankings.

Those rankings are abused and gamed ridiculously.

BerettaTomcat | August 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm

Since the late ’90s I found it virtually impossible to hire a “fire and forget” college science grad. They all needed extensive hand holding and remedial training in writing amd math, and some had no clue as to what an acceptable work ethic was.

Most of these illiterate snowflakes couldn’t have graduated from HS back in the ’50s/’60’s.

IIRC grade inflation began during the Vietnam war when the draft was in effect.

Students whose grades were good could get draft deferments. Many professors who opposed the war started giving higher grades than their students had earned in order to protect them from the draft. After students were not at risk of being drafted, the practice continued and escalated.

    I think there are two other important causes too: (1) International students, (2) The student viewed as a customer, and both are related.

    In many overseas countries the hardest thing to achieve is to gain university admission. Once admitted, continued attendance will eventually guarantee graduation. When they come to the USA and pay their university fees they expect the same treatment. They sometimes confuse effort with ability and demand passes for work submitted because of the time they claim to have spent working on the submitted effort.

    As students are now considered the customer, and the customer is always right, then universities start seeing themselves as selling degrees instead of being paid to teach, with an evaluation of the students’s learning of this teaching at the end. The money is the prize for university administrators, not maintaining the high intellectual standards of their graduates. The students believe they are there to get a degree, not to learn and so often will pick the easiest courses to pass instead of subjects that they might need to know for their future desired career.

    Essentially, universities are becoming the senior years of high school of years past. It keeps students off the unemployment statistics and allows politicians to claim their country is getting smarter compared to other countries. What it is really doing is devaluating degrees and causing them to be just another requirement for any job, regardless of relevance or usefulness. The STEM field is still an exemption though, as the university degree does provide good training.

Frezz in the hizzy | August 16, 2019 at 7:27 pm

I teach at a private university well-known for its student-centered culture, and treatment of the student as customer. I feel like I’m constantly having to defend what I’m trying to do, in the face of pressure from students and parents alike. I never even knew what grade-scrounging was until I started working there.
Discount rates are rising dramatically, and things have gotten so bad that competition has many schools scrambling to woo families in any way imaginable. We are a “premier life skills university,” whatever that means. I have had parents calling and emailing me very mad about the perception of my treatment of their kid. How many of you had a parent call one of your college teachers?
Having said that, a lot of them are good kids, and my schedule is hard to beat!

I used to teach part time at an extension campus in our town where I taught a graduate level course in biochemistry. One year I had a student who could not even grasp the basics of the course and their grade score at the end of the semester was less than half that of the next lowest score in class.
I told the department chair that I was going to flunk the student due to their abysmal effort and I was told that I had to pass them. I was told that this student worked for a large employer that sent a large number of students to the extension campus and without these students the campus would not exist. Additionally if I flunked this student, then others might stop going to school there. Besides, the chairman argued, this student would never use what they were trying to learn so it made no difference.
I told the chairman that I would pass the student, but I would not teach there again. A year later as I was leaving town for another job, I got wind that my course was being offered. Since it was a small town and I knew no one qualified to teach the course in town, I put out some feelers. It turns out the student I wanted to flunk had graduated with their Masters in a distantly related field and was now slated to teach the course. I no longer teach anywhere and have zero respect for colleges and universities. They are utterly corrupt, have no standards or ethics, and have become propaganda mills where indoctrination in the norm. Even STEM courses are not protected from this corruption.

I put in 3 hours of study for every hour in class to get my STEM degree. Nowadays, students put in about an hour of study for every hour in class.
Ironically, those who decry the current lefty stranglehold on our colleges and universities are often called “anti-intellectual.”

Grrr8 American | August 18, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Progressivism by its very nature works to erode standards — this helps achieve the more publicly stated purpose of “achieving equality” (albeit by lowering all toward the lowest common denominator) — while also advancing the actual purposes (an ever-expanding underclass of the ignorant and easily manipulated, ripe for direction and control by their Progressive self-appointed “best and brightest”).

Hence the erosion of K-12 — a high school diploma once signified actual literacy in math, English and a dollop of science. Of course, we know that today that hiring someone with a high school diploma is a crap shoot — they may only have the literacy of a 7th grader of decades ago.

So it is predictable that the same Progressive dynamic has worked its magic on “higher education.” Ever-lowering standards, while making the “graduates” virtual debt-slaves for the privilege. The ignorance of “college graduates” like AOC illuminates the consequences.

Debt slave + ignorant. A pretty good formula for manufacturing useful idiots a/k/a “Democratic Socialist” voters.

I attended (yes, and graduated from) both a state university and an Ivy. I found grading much, much easier at the Ivy.

I’m not sure why, but I suspect it was because everyone assumed if you were at the Ivy you must be bright, and therefore you were always to be given benefit of the doubt.

Somehow you’d think this would be just the opposite, but that certainly was not my experience.

In any case, one of the drivers here is almost surely affirmative action. For it looks bad for the school if those admitted with a thumb on the scale have an abysmally poor graduation rate. And the easiest way to deal with that is to just make it easier for everyone. Thus affirmative action is not just a matter of fairness in admissions but comes to corrupt the entire educational mission of the school.

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