March 27, 2017

Open Admissions + First Semester Loans = Bad Student Outcomes


Consider the following;

_  According to National Center for Education (NCES) statistics, 61% of college-bound students require remedial education.

_ Of that remedial cohort, only 24.5% ever graduate from college.

_ According to NCES, 90% of student loan defaults are by college dropouts. 8% are by certificate or associate graduates, and, contrary to opinion, only 2% are by four year graduates.

_25-30% of dropouts in most colleges I know occur in the first term.

_NCES does not keep data on defaults from remedial students, but its research shows that the highest default rates occur with students who have the least number of credits completed.

In spite of the above information, most career colleges, most community colleges, and many state colleges are “open admission,” which means all or nearly all applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent are admitted. My understanding is that some colleges that for decades used entrance testing as predictors of graduation have now abandoned testing altogether. You can draw your own conclusions as to why in this era of colleges, especially for-profit colleges, engaging in extreme competition for students. So a large number of “at-risk” students are entering college without selectivity nor evaluation as to their chances of completing the program. This, at a time when the TABE test (Test for Adult Basic Education) shows the average high school graduate scores at 10th grade levels in math and English and large numbers are well below those levels.

Does it make sense to send these at-risk students with academic and cultural success needs into college and immediately load them with student loans when they are the most likely to default? Remember, student loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, so many of these students will carry a financial albatross around their neck for most of their lives.

I realize most State legislatures want to give all students a chance to succeed and get a chance at college. But if we know we are sending at-risk students to college or career training programs, why don’t we finance students during the first term only with State grants and federal Pell grants and avoid student loans during the first term? If these students survive the first term of 25-30% attrition, you can disburse the full amount of the first academic year at the beginning of the second term.

What I am proposing not only would lower overall loan defaults and save taxpayers money, but more importantly would give those at-risk students we profess to care about a chance by preventing a life of financial misery with loans they can never get shed.  The current practice, driven by college operators’ obsession with cash flow, is ruining lives every year.

PLEASE GIVE THESE STUDENTS A CHANCE. Schools with open admissions should have no student loans in the first term.