As Kentucky’s First Lady gets ready to host a conference on the graduation rate problems in Kentucky’s public high schools, the Education Trust has just updated their search tool on college graduation rates. This tool has a number of interesting features including the ability to look at the 4-year graduation rate for the majority of Kentucky’s public and private colleges.
That 4-year rate is important to parents and students because it shows which schools do a better job of graduating students most economically. College expenses mount up quickly, and paying for an extra year or two to get a Bachelors’ Degree can really load up the costs.
Here is how the public and private universities in the state stack up in the Education Trust’s database.
Notice that the very best 4-year graduation rate in Kentucky’s most effective public college, the Murray State University, is less than 33 percent. In other words, less than one in three students graduate from Murray state “on time.” For other state schools, the performance is even worse.
The very worst “deal” in state schools is the U of L. It has by far the highest student-related expenditures of any of the public universities, but its 4-year graduation rate is very low.
Things look better for a number of the state’s private colleges, but only a handful graduate more than one out of two of their students “on time.”
It should be pointed out that graduation rates in all of these schools quite naturally increase when students who take five or six years to graduate are added. You can do those 5-year and 6-year what-if calculations using the Ed Trust Web tool. However, the costs involved for each extra year of school mount up quickly, and smart parents and their students would do well to consider four-year graduation rate performance in college planning.
Another point is that the colleges alone do not share all the blame for the low graduation rates. Poorly prepared students from our pubic schools arrive in large numbers at our colleges’ doors with inadequate preparation. That requires non-college credit remedial course work which often pushes students into at least one extra year of college the moment they matriculate. Thus, some of the blame for the very low 4-year grad rates in the Education Trust database must be laid clearly at the foot of Kentucky’s public schools and the failure of KERA, after nearly 20 years, to produce the sort of improvement we were promised in 1990.
As a note, I’m still researching what the Student Related Expenditures/FTE actually shows, but it does not appear to directly relate to tuition costs. You can research that yourself here in Ed Trust’s technical notes, found here.