Putting Education Reform To The Test

Four Things Colleges Need to Do to Increase Graduation Rates

Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

College students with a sense of civic engagement are more likely to complete a degree, according to the Lumina Foundation panel Tuesday.

The Lumina Foundation hosted a panel discussion in Ybor City Tuesday discussing the importance of graduating students with a post-secondary degree.

The foundation, which is an underwriter of StateImpact Florida, has one big goal: to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees to 60 percent by 2025.

According to a report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 59 percent of Florida’s jobs will require postsecondary education by 2018.

Here are four suggestions the expert panel had for colleges trying to improve retention and graduation rates: 

1. Lower Tuition

Panelists Aaron Smith, the co-founder of Young Invincibles, said the biggest issue people have with college — is the cost.

“They know how important it is to get that degree, at the same time there’s all these barriers to getting a degree,” Smith said. “You look at the cost, you know its going up.”

2. Bring in More Guidance Counselors

Smith said plenty of students take courses they don’t need because they’re not directed in the right direction.

“In this country, we’ve cut way back on guidance counselors in our high schools,” he said. “There are schools where they have one guidance counselor for a thousand students.”

3. Set Students Expectations

Miami-Dade College president, Eduardo Padrón, was among the panelists. He said his school explains the learning outcomes expected of students in each class they take.

“We’re making our programs more intrusive and direct, we’re leaving less options, ” he said. “We’ve discovered students want more structure.”

“We’re going from a philosophy that prevailed in the 70s, the 80s and even the 90s, of the right to fail — which means you come to college, you swim or sink, it’s your problem; to a philosophy now which is based on the right to succeed which places a lot of responsibilities on the institution,” he said.

4. Create a Sense of Community

Smith said students who feel like they are part of a community are more likely to complete a degree.

“We see that when schools really have a sense of civic engagement, students actually feel like they’re part of a community. They see their peers – even if they’re working other jobs – they’re still trying to graduate, that sense of community is really powerful and gets students to finish,” he said.



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