Monday, July 23, 2012

Graduation and Placement Rate Bias

The world of higher education is an interesting one. It's a world filled with misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies. Sometimes there are truths, but one usually has to do some digging to actually find them. As with most industries, there are good players and bad players. It's just a way of life. However, with most attempts to weed out the bad players, the good players are the ones that suffer.

The funny thing is how things aren't always how they seem. Take for example the rules of the Dept of Ed that for-profit schools disclose their on-time graduation rates, placement rates, costs, and other information. Any school that offers a Gainful Employment program, whether it's public, private, or for-profit, should release that information for that program. So why is it that all programs at a for-profit institution has to disclose that information? There are several reasons for that which we won't cover today.

Some people are under the impression if a school has to disclose something, then the numbers have to be really good. But what's considered really good? I've met a few who compare graduation rates and placement rates to grades on tests: if it's over 90% then it's good, if it's in the 80's% then it's ok, if it's in the 70's% then it's not so good, and if it's under that, then it's failing. It's not quite that simple.

Accrediting agencies have their own rules on these numbers. Graduation rates are figured on a time and a half basis, meaning if a program lasts two years, then the graduation rate is figured on people who completed in three years. Placement rates are figured on people who completed a program and obtained jobs in a related field; however, this figure doesn't take into account people who willingly chose not to get a job in a related field (yes, these people do exist - take for example an accountant who takes Medical Assisting to learn how to take care of her Great Aunt but has no intention of becoming a Medical Assistant). The rates themselves (like most statistics) don't tell the whole story, and usually ruling against the school. Most accrediting agencies look at around 60% as a good number for judging these rates.

However, have you ever wondered what a public university's rates were? These schools don't have to disclose this information for non-Gainful Employment programs. So, just because they aren't required to disclose it, does that mean that their rates are exemplary?

Here is an article about the 11 public universities with horrible graduation rates. These rates are based on time and a half for bachelor's degrees. The list of schools is found on a link in the page. I urge you to take a look. Some of the names will shock you.

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