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Half the recession-driven college students of 2009 still haven't graduated
Surge in college attendance came when jobs were scarce, but college gamble has not paid off for thousands. - photo by Eric Schulzke
Just over half of new college students in 2009, or roughly 53 percent, had earned their bachelor's degree six years later, a new study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds, a dramatic drop from the 56 percent from the 2007 cohort.

The study's authors note the need to "diversify support services in order to meet the needs of higher educations growing and diverse student population." They also point to research that ties college completion to sufficient financial aid. Finally, they note causes for failure to complete include such factors as "family expectations, lack of social integration, confusion about academic major, and academic/employment balance."

The data illustrate the folly of pushing high school graduates into college without an actionable plan to get them out, the Five Thirty Eight blog argues.

"The low graduation rate shouldnt come as a big surprise," Five Thirty Eight notes. "The recession drove people to attend college who wouldnt have gone otherwise and who were likely less prepared than other students. Many of them ended up in worse shape than if they hadnt gone to college in the first place: burdened with thousands of dollars in student debt, but without a degree to show for it. The disappointing results emphasize yet again that merely encouraging people to attend college isnt enough. We also have to find ways to help them graduate, too."

One reason for the low graduation rate may be that high schools are not preparing graduates for college, argues a paper released last year by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

Administrators and policymakers should use caution when assuming the best way to increase postsecondary degree attainment is to increase college enrollment, the paper argues. Given current levels of academic preparation in secondary schools, many students are not prepared for success at four-year, and even two-year colleges.

Its not just about the job market. Its about affordability," Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the center, a nonprofit higher-education research organization, told the Wall Street Journal. "Its about ability to stay in and continue to have the confidence that when you graduate, if you graduate, youll be able to pay back that debt.
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