Monday, May 4, 2009

Can't Afford to Drop Out

Would it surprise you to learn that the graduation rate in New York may be even lower than we already thought? The only real surprise on that would be that it's lower than the already awful 50% where it currently stands. Yet a recent report shows that more than 20% of the class of 2007 were discharged from the system before they graduated. Those discharges are students who were then not counted in figuring the final graduation rate for the system. In other words, the graduation rate may be 20% lower than we thought.

Now, not all of them are actual dropouts. Many may have moved, entered private schools, or any number of other legitimate reasons for removing themselves from the system. But you can bet that many of them were drop outs or were counseled out. And that's very sad.

However, there's research that provides cause for hope. A study out of the University of Michigan shows that kids as young as 11 will work harder in school if they think that college is affordable to them. The logical flip side is that kids who don't see college as a real opportunity are more likely to give up. That makes a lot of sense to me. Why work if there isn't going to be a reward in the forseeable future? But if kids know their work in school can get them somewhere, they'll stick with it better.

That means that we need to do everything we can to make college more affordable (I know I'm not the first one to say that), but also that we need to make sure people know we're making college more affordable. We can start educating parents and students early on to make sure that they see the possibilities and are willing to keep working toward them. When we do that, we may be able to start pushing up our abysmal graduation rates.

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