Why Don’t More College Students Cross the Finish Line?

A book released today takes a close look at why only 60 percent of students entering four-year colleges are graduating. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities, was written by William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson.

One of the authors of the book, Matthew Chingos, spoke with Education Next about some of the book’s most interesting findings in a video that can be viewed by clicking on the image below:


Among the book’s findings:

  • Scores on the SAT and ACT tests are not good predictors of whether students are likely to graduate from college.
  • High school grades are a much stronger predictor, perhaps because they better measure non-cognitive abilities, like whether students complete required assignments.
  • Scores on AP tests are a stronger predictor of whether students are likely to complete college than SAT and ACT scores are, but AP scores are not as strong a predictor as high school grades.
  • There is an exception when it comes to SAT and ACT scores: at the most selective universities, SAT and ACT scores do predict both graduation rates and student grades.
  • Students who attend more selective universities, which might be expected to be more challenging to complete, actually graduate at higher rates than students who attend less selective universities. This is even true for comparable (or “observationally equivalent”) students.
  • Students from poor families often “undermatch.” Many academically talented students from poor families do not attend more selective universities because they do not even apply to these universities, even though the study finds that the selective universities would be very likely to admit them.

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