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Dropping The Dropout Rate

Theres a movement on the rise, but its not one Americans should be ready to rally over. College dropout rates have risen to 46%; thats almost half of the new incoming and transfer students that are not graduating! This is a problem. In a land of opportunity, education should be more easily attainable and achievable. So why isnt it? Overwhelmed, reluctant, unprepared, and unworthy. These are the feelings of students that are forced to drop out. They leave college behind, looking to a new future, with no degree. The Pathways to Prosperity study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education stated, They [students] are less likely to be pursuing careers as lawyers, doctors or architects, where higher education has a clear correlation with obtaining a job. The effect of this on a large scale is costly. Globally, the United States finished last out of 18 countries based on the percentage of students that actually finished college once they started, reducing our competition internationally. Nationally, the effects are just as disturbing. According to a study done by the American Institute for Research, the cost to the nation of students who drop out is $4.5 billion in lost earnings and state and federal taxes. Whos to blame? Is it the government, colleges, hometowns, the educational system, or the individuals themselves? This is a complex issue, because so many factors can play into the decision to drop out. The actions that need to be taken can differ as well. This issue book contains three distinct perspectives, differing in viewpoints about the issue of college dropouts, but each with the goal to reduce it. If any of these were to be implemented, change could happen. From the perspective of our first approach, its the colleges fault themselves as to why there is such a high percentage of drop outs. The shift from high school to college is too dramatic. A better transition needs to be implemented so that students can adjust better academically and socially. More emphasis would be put on the advisors, RAs, class officers, and freshmen teachers to ensure incoming students feel properly prepared and welcome so that in result, leaving due to low grades or no friends is not an issue. The second approach focuses on what district the college students come from. Different districts suffer in different areas. Its proven that areas that have a higher minority percentage have a lower graduation rate. The goal would be to target districts where minorities are and offer free government help. A test would be implemented to highlight the areas of need and get the desired assistance. The third approach blames the high tuition as to why students are dropping out of college. The cost of college is always increasing, leaving students in lifelong debt. That pressure can cause a student to reconsider working the rest of their lives as a better option than education. Students are denying

acceptance so they can make money instead, but society needs college educated people. More government money is pushed for in this approach through GPA-based grants, not just need-based. The goal of this issue book is to start discussion about which option is best for fixing the educational problem and decreasing the dropout rate of college.

Cause 1:
Our first cause of the high college dropout rates places blame on the colleges themselves. Most students struggle their first year, and some beyond, to stay in school and adjust to all of the changes. College life is completely different from life before in the fact that one must be responsible for everything rather than having adults give direction. However, even responsible students struggle during the adjustment, illuminating the problem that the blame of high college dropout rates cannot be solely placed on the students themselves, rather the colleges for failure to help the students during the transitioning period. Many colleges have not yet made retention efforts a high priority. Fewer than half (47%) of all college officials responding to an ACT survey say they have established a goal for improved retention of first-year students, and only a third (33%) say they have established a goal for improved degree completion. In addition, only around half (52%) say they have an individual on staff that is responsible for coordinating retention strategies ( So with the dropout rates so high, why our college doing nothing to help out their students?

Inside the Classroom/Education:

One of the biggest challenges transitioning freshmen must face is in the classroom. For a quick comparison: High School Tests are only a small percentage of the final grade Final grades are taken from test, quizzes, homework, projects, participation College Some classes curriculum have as few as 3 tests, making each test extremely impactful towards the final grade Many collegiate classes only include tests for determining grades, and few include quizzes, homework, projects, AND participation (all four or even two or the above list) Huge classrooms, prohibiting the students from getting to know their professors. Lack of the relationship often makes asking for help more difficult and leaves out a level of respect for one another

Smaller classrooms, allowing good teacher/student relationships

Teacher help is easily accessible. One must either find their teacher before class/school, after class/school, or during a free period Guidance counselors that are readily accessible that a limited number of people report to, giving the counselor an ability to be in-tune with the students

Receiving professor help is more challenging. Office hours are often difficult to attend and can often fall at a time where the student is in a different class Academic advisors that often (especially in large universities with a huge student body) have a large number of students reporting to them and asking them for help, making time with an academic advisor more difficult. Also prevents advisors from knowing all of their students, which makes giving guidance more difficult and less personal

There is quite a change from high school when students are thrust into the collegiate classrooms. Not only that, but there is a lot of pressure placed on grades. Many argue that classroom should be more about the learning experience rather than teaching for the tests. There are a few changes that can be made to help these students in the transition their freshmen year into college and then stay in the school. Offer freshmen specific freshmen counselors to help meet with the students their first year. That will give them an adult who they are familiar with and comfortable enough with to seek guidance. Change the typical freshmen classes to have more middle ground between the high school classroom and the college classroom. Offer summer classes for freshmen to get used to college by taking only one to two classes before they must start taking a full course load. Require teacher to change their classrooms, placing less weight on tests by either giving more or giving homework, participation, quizzes, and project grades. Provide special attention through counselors to those students that have low grade point averages. Require students with low grade point averages to attend Saturday sessions that give study skills/tips and include a mandatory study hall.

Outside the Classroom:

As says, Helping students succeed in the classroom is a very positive step, but if students feel isolated or feel as if they dont fit in, they wont stay. Its important for colleges to offer programs and services that integrate first-year students into the social fabric of the college community, so that they feel a part of campus life from the very start of their college experience. For many freshmen, there is a huge challenge in college life. All of a sudden, they are thrown into a life where they must live in a small enclosed space with someone they have never known before. Freshmen must normally make a new set of friends. They need to be selfmotivated to complete school work and keep their living conditions clean. New students must worry about feeding themselves, buying groceries, getting supplies for the dorm room and school, and learn how to balance school and their social life. The fact of the matter is, if these dont happen freshmen year, it will be hard for the students to continue due to poor grades or not

feeling as if they are wanted because they have not made any friends. So, there are a few ways colleges can prevent students from falling into the no friends, bad grades, no hygiene pit.

Provide freshmen with senior partners to help them socially with getting involved in
school and finding friends/navigating college. Offer freshmen Saturday classes that give advice on plugging into a college campus and help with independent living. Provide class socials (i.e. a pizza party for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seinors individually) which will allow the classes to intermingle and more opportunities to make friends. Allow freshmen to move in one to two weeks before the start of school so they can begin making friends and figuring out collegiate life before classes start. Place more pressure on Residential Advisors to plan events for their hallways in order to make the halls more of a close-knit community.

What Others Say:

Students should be prepared for college or else they should not attend. College is a time for independence if they arent ready to be independent, they shouldnt go to college. College is a credentialing system for hiring businesses they know students are proficient in their area of study (and then hopefully their job in the future) when they have successfully completed. There is enough aid at most schools for students to get help; students should seek out help rather than be forced to receive it.

Cause 2:
Our second cause of dropout rates is that not all districts are created equal, thus some students come from districts requiring extra guidance, either in school or outside of the school, in order to help them prepare for college. The graduation rates for minority males overall are low: 50.6% for Latinos, 46.7% for African-Americans, and 46.4% for Native Americans (Blackboard Institute). Districts with high rates of the above minorities typically have low graduation rates, and therefore are areas that need to be addressed. By looking specifically at the profiles of the students, we will be able to see specific problems and find the solutions necessary to fix these problems. This method would work by setting a general standard for all high school students and implementing help for the areas that do not reach this standard. Currently 53 percent of Hispanic students, 55 percent of Native American students and 38 percent of African-American students have met their grade level reading standards. Also 55 percent of Hispanic students, 58 percent of Native American students and 40 percent of

African-American have met their grade level math standards. Most students become so far behind on their reading and math skills that it is impossible for them to keep up with their classmates. A major part of the success of these programs is to have knowledge of how far behind the students in the districts actually are. By requiring students to take an aptitude test for each ethnicity and assessing which students are falling behind the national average, schools will be able to help these students before they are left behind within the public school system. With this information, schools and help programs will be able to ensure that these behindschedule students are put on an accelerated learning track. These help centers would work with students individually based on the progress they need to make, and also the progress their ethnicity needs to make in general. For example, in many minority districts that dont have the funding necessary because of overall lower test scores, technology isnt readily available which is a major disadvantage for the students. Colleges are implementing the newest technology impossible, so getting high school students up to speed in this area is necessary to their collegiate success. Targeting districts where these minorities live and instituting free, government funded education help programs would help improve these low rates of graduation. Also, finding general areas of struggle within each ethnic/gender group and providing resources of help for these areas of struggle would be a main part of this method. Addressing problem areas and offering help centers will help increase graduation rates. Also, by setting standards for education that must be met, there will be more of an incentive for students to actually use these help centers.

We Can:
Require students in minority districts to take an aptitude test that would display academic areas in need of help, therefore displaying the subjects that need the most improvement Implement education help centers that are specific to the academic struggles in districts that have a high rate of minorities. Make these help centers a requirement for the students of the district who have a GPA of a 2.0 or lower. Requiring high schools in the districts to fully integrate these help centers into the academic criteria and reporting progress/decline of students back to the centers.

What Others Say:

Grouping students based on their ethnicity/gender could be inefficient. A single characteristic of a student (i.e. their ethnicity) does not define their abilities as a student. If some districts are receiving a greater amount of funding for programs to help students, other districts may deem this an unfair advantage to those students. There are already helpful programs in place and it is the students responsibility to take advantage of these programs. This issue should not become the burden of the specific districts.

Cause 3:
One of the most common causes of the college dropout rates is due to high tuition rate of the school. Many students feel pressure over the heavy loan for tuition that they need to pay back after graduation. Due to the heavy tuition, many students drop out from the college during the semester or do not accept the acceptance from college in order to earn money instead of further education. However, such phenomenon is potential problem in the future. The society needs highly educated individuals in order to have rapid progresses. Pushing students away from studying is being self-destructive.

Many of the students who dropped out said that they had inadequate financial assistance from their families and the student aid system. For example, 58% of college dropouts said that they had no help from their parents, compared with 37% among students who graduated. Similarly, 69% said that they had no scholarships or loans, compared with 43% among students who graduated. ( If money makes individuals turn away from education, is there any way we can help such phenomena?

Policy in High school:

Some high schools are giving out monetary incentives in order to begin early on decreasing the dropout rate in college based on financial needs. Ohio High School, knowing that poverty is the problem of the area, is giving away visa gift cards for attendance of seniors and underclassmen, addressing the financial aid problem as well as increasing attendance. The school had success, as there was an increased rate of attendance and academic performance. The high school increased their average GPA after they implemented this policy. Such strategy will be effective as long as the receiving students put the money towards college. It is an attempt early on to give prospective college kids financial aid, allowing money not to be a hindrance when considering college as a future option.

High School Policy in College:

Colleges should have standard guidelines for grants based upon students GPA. If a student gets over a certain GPA, colleges should pay the part of tuition that is relative to each student. It is common for colleges to suggest the academic grants dependent upon the academic performance of the students. Therefore, they should expand this idea to provide more relief for those who are working hard to stay in school.

We can:
Suggest more monetary incentives beginning in high school through other means than just GPA or needs based Require the government to offer more scholarships and loans based on more than just needs based, specifically GPA and how hard working the student is Lower the minimum requirements to receive financial aid

What others say:

Some critics would say that such a strategy will work only in poor area. Other critics might bring up moral issues of paying student for grades and fairness of students who cannot do well in college. The awarded money is relatively low compared to the amount of money that individuals can earn from working.