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Sue Dynarski on The Cost of Non Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education

May 9, 2019 0:05:24
Kaltura Video

Professor Sue Dynarski testifies before House Subcommittee on Education and Labor on May 9th, 2019 on the topic titled “The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education.”


I'll first recognize now

Dr. Dynarski for
for your remarks.

And then we'll go
all the way through.

Thank you.

Chairwoman Davis, ranking member,

Smucker, and members
of the subcommittee.

Thank you for the opportunity
to testify today.

a person can make.

My dad was a high-school dropout.

I'm a college professor.

I have seen firsthand
the power of

education to change
people's lives.

A bachelor's degree pays
for itself several times

over in the form
of higher income,

lower unemployment, and
increased economic security.

College graduates with a BA,

earn 80 percent more than

those with just a
high school degree.

Within ten years of
college graduation,

the typical BA
recipient will have

recouped the cost of
attending college.

Those who attend college
without graduating see

much smaller benefits,
especially for men.

The earnings of non completers

more closely resemble those of

high school graduates than
of college graduates.

Rising student debt has shifted

financial risk on to students and

makes graduation
even more important.

Those who earn a BA rarely
default on their loans.

Most defaults are
by non completers.

Now while college completion has,

college attendance
has risen steadily,

degree attainment has stagnated.

That's because half
of college students

dropout without earning a degree.

As a result, only about 30
percent of adults have a BA.

For those from the lowest income

families, it's 10 percent.

For Black adults,
it's 22 percent and

for Hispanic adults, 15 percent.

And most people start college
intending to earn a degree,

most do not succeed.

The Department of
Education projects

a sharp increase in the number

of college students who
are Black or Hispanic,

while the number of White
students will barely

budge. Unless we increase
completion rates for

disadvantaged Black and Latino
students we're looking at

a sharp decrease in the
education of our population.

Now completion rates vary
dramatically by sector.

The odds of graduating if you

start out at a non-profit
for your college,

are 76 percent. At a public
four-year college,

65 percent. At a
community college,

37 percent, and at a
for-profit school, 35 percent.

At hundreds of schools,

only one out of five
students will graduate.

At 300 colleges, students
are more likely to

default on their student loans

than they are to get a degree.

The very low completion rates at

for-profits are
especially troubling.

Students attending
for-profits take on

much higher debt and
they're far more

likely to default on their loans.

That's because evidence
shows that students

don't get an earnings boost from

attending a for-profit college.

Now why do students dropout?

Students with weaker
academic preparation are

more likely to dropout

But even well-prepared
students drop out of college.

For example, a
high-performing student from

a low-income family is no more

likely to graduate college than

a mediocre student from
a high-income family.

Part of this is
financial insecurity.

Students need to know that

their college costs are
covered in order to

focus on their studies.
Our complicated,

bureaucratic financial aid
system often fails them.

Even more importantly,
school quality matters.

Better schools produce
better outcomes.

This is obvious when we're
talking about K-12 education

which is free for students.

Since it's free, we focus

our policy discussions
on how to make

that free education a good
education. For college,

we are rightly concerned
about affordability,

and we talk about it quite a bit,

but we can't stop there.

An affordable school
is worthless or even

harmful if it doesn't
provide a quality education.

Evidence shows that resources

matter for college completion,

especially for
disadvantaged students.

Yet those with the
greatest needs attend

the schools with the
fewest resources.

In elementary and
secondary education,

we steer additional money and

support towards students
with the greatest need.

Federal money sends
federal funding,

sends money to schools who

teach English language learners,

those with learning
disabilities and the

disadvantaged. In college,

the equation is flipped.

Schools that have
most students with

the greatest need get
the fewest resources.

At private universities per

pupil instructural spending is

about 45 thousand dollars a year, at

community colleges, 10 thousand.

Now we've got strong
evidence about

what works in
increasing completion.

And unsurprisingly
it costs something.

At the City University
of New York,

the ASAP program
more than doubled

the graduation rate of
community college students.

Similar program in
Ohio, similar success.

These programs now serve tens
of thousands of students.

They cost a few thousand
dollars per student per year,

which still leaves
community colleges spending

far less than four year colleges.

Stable funding is critical

for schools if
they're to succeed.

But when states face
a budget crunch it's

typically the public
colleges that get cut first.

Spending on public colleges took

a very hard hit
during the recession.

The result was
decreased resources,

higher tuition prices,
and high dropout rates.

Facing underfunded and

overflowing public
colleges, students

turned in large numbers
to for-profit colleges.

They left those colleges
with huge student debts

and worthless credentials.

This pattern is likely to

repeat itself with
the next recession.

Unless we make a change,

we will see another spike
in for-profit enrollment,

another spike in
student loan default.

Unless we consistently
give our public colleges

the resources they need
to educate our students.