After decades of slow growth, the share of young Americans completing college has increased to 48 percent in 2019, from 39 percent 10 years earlier. What accounts for the rise? Are more students clearing a meaningful bar for graduation, or are colleges and universities engaging in credential inflation and lowering their academic standards? This question could be central as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act—given the current interest in using degree completion as an accountability metric linked to the disbursement of federal funds. Are there problems in setting forth higher graduation rates as a federal goal? And more specifically, should policymakers embrace or reject the idea of linking funding to such outcomes in a new Higher Education Act?
In this forum, Lanae Erickson of the think tank Third Way lays out the case for using federal leverage and other means to get institutions to boost their completion rates. Robert Kelchen of Seton Hall University sees both promise and pitfalls in tying federal funding to such outcomes, even as he doubts that a new Higher Education Act is on the near horizon.
by Robert Kelchen
by Lanae Erickson