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September 16, 2010 2:25 PM Dropout Factory, Still Accredited

By Daniel Luzer

Chicago State University, which has a graduation rate slightly under 13 percent, has apparently managed to (just barely) hold on to its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

According to an article by Jodi Cohen in the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago State University’s accreditation has been reaffirmed after being in limbo for more than a year due to concerns about poor retention and graduation rates.
Last year, the Higher Learning Commission cited “grave” concerns about the school, including a “remarkably poor” graduation rate of 14 percent and a freshmen retention rate of 58 percent. Officials said this week that retention of freshmen from last fall to this fall is up about 3 percentage points. In March, the Higher Learning Commission sent a team to evaluate the school. Last month the group confirmed that accreditation would continue. The next review is in 2013.

Chicago State has taken some steps to improve its graduation rate, including creating an “early alert system” when students don’t come to class and hiring an “Executive Director of Graduation” to help students earn more credits.

Colleges that lose accreditation can’t take advantage of federal student aid programs and students at these schools can’t generally transfer credits to other institutions.

It’s actually incredibly rare for a school to lose accreditation. As Kevin Carey wrote in a piece for the Monthly back in March:

[Accrediting] commissions… have no actual regulatory authority and only one tool—de-accreditation—to compel compliance by delinquent schools. Once the federal government handed accreditors the keys to the financial aid kingdom, de-accreditation amounted to a financial death penalty, a sentence that accreditors, who are primarily made up of current and former university officials, are loath to administer. As a result, accreditors rarely step in before universities are already beyond redemption….

But so far, at least, Chicago State has been saved for another few years.

Check out Ben Miller and Phuong Ly’s article about Chicago State and other college dropout factories in the latest issue of the magazine.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer