Is Our Academic Fate Already Decided? Examining Graduation Rates in College Institutions

by Brenden Overton

The graduation rate of US college students has been a popular topic for decades. “Inputs Trump Outputs” by Paul Fain examines several factors that have substantial effects on six-year graduation rates. Based on academic research, the author concludes that student attributes such as federal grant reception (especially the Pell Grant), average ACT scores, grade point average, race, wealth of the institution, and transfer credits, largely predict six years graduation rates.

Some of these results, especially those relating to the six-year graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients, are quite unnerving. If the federal government rewards the institutions with high graduation rates, these institutions will have an inherent incentive to optimize the rates. If these research studies prove accurate, then to accomplish this, the rate of acceptance of candidates that appear less desirable (e.g. low-income families, minorities, those with poor standardized test performances) will decrease. In a country where a four-year degree is more essential than ever to obtain a well-paying career, the future looks bleak for those students who do not match the conventional characteristics of a college student and the universities that cater to them. The critical question that then arises is: How can we reconstruct the educational system to allow those who are qualified but do not have the resources to obtain degrees?

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