ACT Reports Lower Dropout, Graduation Rates
The percentage of freshman college dropouts has declined for the third consecutive year, while the number of students graduating has reached an all-time low, according to a recent report by the American College Testing.Of the students who enrolled in four-year colleges in the fall of 1997, 25.9 percent failed to return for their sophomore year. That’s 1 percent below the previous record of 26.9 percent, reported in 1996. The report lists the percentage of students not returning to public schools at 28.1 percent, about 3.2 percent higher than the rate the report found for private colleges. At the same time, the portion of students who enrolled at a four-year institution in the fall of 1993 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree within five years slumped even further, to 51.6 percent down from 52.1 percent. The graduation rate was lower at public schools than private schools — 42.2 percent and 55.8 percent, respectively. An all-time low of 37.5 percent of students graduated in three years. “What we see in terms of graduating is a slightly lower percentage that graduates in five years from a four-year institution,” ACT spokesman Kelley Hayden says. “It’s going down, but not by a lot. It’s continuous.” Hayden says the same is true for the dropout rate. It seemed to peak two or three years ago, but now it’s coming down.A contributing factor to the lower dropout rates is the concerted effort many institutions are making to provide support services for students, Hayden says. These support programs, as well as a strong economy, are helping students stay in school.There are several factors affecting the graduation rate. First, the percentage of part-time students has increased. Part-time students take longer to graduate, and that skews the numbers. “We now have two-thirds of the high school graduates going to college right away,” Hayden says. “In the 1950s it was about 25 percent, and then the numbers climbed to 50 percent by the 1980s. With two-thirds of the students entering college now, you’re no longer talking about just the top half of the class. There are more students who are not as academically prepared, and need more time.” — Linda Meggett Brown
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