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August 22, 2010 11:00 PM College Dropout Factories

By Ben Miller and Phuong Ly

The school that would later become Chicago State was founded in September 1867 and called the Cook County Normal School—“Normal” referring to schools that prepare teachers for the classroom. For a century or so, it fulfilled this teacher-training role reasonably well. But in 1965 the school was acquired by the state of Illinois, soon renamed Chicago State, and converted into a standard four-year institution. In 1972, Chicago State moved to a newly built $95 million campus that could accommodate an additional 10,000 students. Most of them would be drawn from the city’s poor and working-class South Side and nearby suburbs. It was an admirable attempt to open new doors to a demographic that had been largely shut out of higher education. But it wasn’t long before signs of neglect and mismanagement were obvious. Passage rates on an elementary education teacher licensure exam, for instance, plummeted from 82 percent in 1968 to 42 percent in 1973, and the school almost lost its teacher accreditation.

One year later, in 1974, a devastating series on Chicago State appeared in the Chicago Defender, the city’s premier black newspaper. Under the heading “Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Read,” the articles blasted the school, calling it a “diploma mill, with little quality control or concern about the product,” and noted “oppressively low” morale among students. Chicago State is a “ripoff institution,” it said, “a place where a comfortable white administration and faculty is providing a second-rate education for black students.”

Benjamin Alexander, the university’s first black president, arrived as a reformer in the 1970s. He made some significant improvements, but the progress largely evaporated after he left in the 1980s. Another reformer came in the 1990s and then was likewise gone. This would become a familiar pattern: temporary reform followed by familiar fecklessness. No improvements ever seemed to stick. In 2008, Chicago State’s President Elnora Daniel resigned under pressure after the school suffered yet another severe bout of mismanagement. A state audit found that even as the university suffered budget cuts, Daniel and other employees had spent lavishly on meals, alcohol, and first-class airfare. Daniel had brought five relatives and a university administrator with her on a nine-day Caribbean cruise for a “leadership conference.” Lax financial oversight allegedly resulted in the university paying more than a quarter of a million dollars for two photocopiers purchased from a company owned by a university employee.

Meanwhile, students contended with broken elevators, dirty classrooms, and ill-equipped labs. As enrollment declined, so did graduation rates. Of the first-time, full-time freshmen who started in 1996, about 18 percent graduated within six years. The graduation rate dropped to 13 percent in 2008.

Last year, the school’s board of trustees picked a new president, Wayne Watson, who has vowed to boost the school’s graduation rate through such reforms as a new electronic “early alert” system to track student attendance and class performance. But he cautions against expecting too much from Chicago State, given the kind of students that go there. “I serve a lower economic quartile,” he says. “So they’re going to drop out because their baby’s sick, because they don’t have money, because they’re trying to survive.”

Certainly, Chicago State enrolls a large share of academically underprepared students compared to more selective schools such as UIC or Northwestern, so its graduation rate might be expected to be lower. But the idea that Chicago State is doing the best it can with the kind of students it serves is belied by ample countervailing evidence. As the chart below shows, there are more than half a dozen schools in the United States with student bodies that are remarkably similar to that of Chicago State in every important respect—from race to test scores to family income—but whose graduation rates are at least double, and in some cases more than triple, the graduation rate of Chicago State.

Take North Carolina Central University, which enrolls 8,500 students. About 85 percent of students at both schools are black. NCCU’s median SAT score is 840, the approximate equivalent of about 17 on the ACT, even lower than Chicago State’s average ACT of 18. The difference, however, is that NCCU tries to work with the students it has. The result: while Chicago State graduates about 13 percent of its students, NCCU graduates about 50 percent. “We have the philosophy that if we admit the students into this institution we have a great responsibility in ensuring their success,” says Bernice Duffy Johnson, dean of the school’s University College, which focuses on supporting students during their first two years.

Students entering NCCU are told from the start that they are expected to have a goal of graduating in four years. The University College keeps students together in groups and assigns them advisers who must approve all major academic decisions and meet with students frequently. NCCU students even sign a contract upon arriving, a document that lays out the goals of what they are going to accomplish. If they start to struggle, they sign an additional contract that commits them to even closer monitoring. Above all, what drives places like NCCU is a culture of experimentation and data collection. The administrators track students, and they track results. If something works, they keep doing it. If it doesn’t, they try something else.

Ben Miller and Phuong Ly collaborated on this article. Miller is a policy analyst at Education Sector. Ly is a journalist who writes frequently on education and immigration issues. She is currently a John S. Knight Fellow in journalism at Stanford University.

Comments

  • Tom on August 23, 2010 10:45 AM:

    I would check the number two ranking given to Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota in your list of "Dropout Factories." This doesn't seem to square with the grad rate data you present in their entry. There are several Concordia Colleges across the US and they vary quite a bit - so there is the possibility to confuse them. As a person in another Minnesota private college, this label seems very wrong.

  • ralph on August 23, 2010 11:54 AM:

    SAT/ACT percentile compared to MCAT/LSAT/GRE/GMAT percentile would reveal who gained the most. Then the only question would be where they spent their time and effort.

  • Barbara on August 23, 2010 1:47 PM:

    I think you need to fix the Concordia mention as well, before Concordia contacts you in a panic. This is the same Concordia where nearly everyone joins a choir and music is a significant part of the curriculum.

    From the Concordia College, Moorhead, MN website:

    2. Will I graduate in four years?

    About 88 percent of the students who start and finish here graduate within four years.

    Something is off!

  • Nick on August 23, 2010 1:49 PM:

    Your information about the statewide meets and exceeds rate for Illinois is misleading. The 76 percent number is the rate for all schools, including elementary schools, which use a different test. For high school, 53 percent of students meet or exceed the standards. In the context of this article, Nestor's high school is still below average, but not as drastically below average as the 76 percent number makes it seem.

  • joe on August 23, 2010 2:46 PM:

    Chicago State sound like the University I went to across town on the north side run by the Jesuits. The administration was indifferent to students who lacked wealthy parents and were only interested in cashing checks. The placement office was very poor. But Catholic high schools keep feeding it students who are like I was naive on how a competent school is run.

  • Joanne Jacobs on August 23, 2010 6:30 PM:

    I suspect your number two should be Concordia College in Selma, Alabama, which asks only for a 2.0 high school GPA.

    The one in Minnesota claims that 31 percent of students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

  • Marquita on August 23, 2010 7:31 PM:

    I did my undergrad at NIU and I currently attend Chicago State for "graduate school." without saying too much, I will say that I now appreciate NIU and its administration. I have been asked if I would like to stay at CSU for a Ph.D. Uhm...NO

  • Gloria on August 23, 2010 7:48 PM:

    Since you mentioned UIC, I want to add that UIC was bold enough to take me as a student some years ago, even though I had the world's worst high school record. They had a policy of "not asking" about your high school grades if you did well for one year at a community college.

    I am sure taking risky students like me lowers their ranking, but I am extremely grateful for the chance UIC gave me, along with the excellent education.

  • Daniel Kaplan on August 23, 2010 8:08 PM:

    Sorry, I have to correct one item in this article. My dad was chair of the Illinois Board of Higher Education during the middle part of the decade, and I can assure you that he was acutely aware of Chicago State's abysmal performance. He made it a point to speak to administrators of the school to emulate private colleges like Robert Morris that have similar demographics but much better records on graduation and the like. Unfortunately, this was happening at the same time as budget cuts were hitting the flagship schools like Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State, so not as much attention was focused on problem cases like Chicago State and Governor State. But it simply isn't true that the Board of Higher Ed was unaware of the problems so eloquently illustrated in this article.

  • JasonM on August 23, 2010 8:40 PM:


    Based only on the description, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Chicago State is run by inner-city African-Americans. The combination of hubris and utter incompetence seems to be characteristic of such institutions -- see also the former regime of the DC Public Schools, King/Drew Hospital in LA, and much of the US Postal Service.

    Maybe someday "investigative reporters" will have the cojones to ask why African American-run institutions often seem to fail so badly, in spite of comparatively lavish resources (see references below). But I'm not holding my breath.


    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/interactives/dcschools/#fullseries

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-kingdrew-gallery,0,5651209.storygallery

  • KristinR on August 23, 2010 11:46 PM:

    I just wanted to confirm what earlier posters have shared about Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. I am a graduate of that college, and in my experience, none of the issues described in the article applied, not to mention that nearly everyone I knew graduated (the few exceptions transferred to other schools). The 88% 4-year graduation rate sounds about right. We had ample support as incoming students and excellent access to our professors, the vast majority of whom were specifically hired/tenured because they were great, student-focused teachers. Please check your data and correct the rankings ASAP - whereas some institutions deserve to be embarrassed by their poor performance, we certainly don't!

  • BurningFeet on August 24, 2010 8:31 AM:

    It would be an interesting exercise to find out if the administrators of these institutions are in fact products of them. Is this failure self reinforcing, a sort of garbage out, garbage back in phenomenon?

  • Scott on August 24, 2010 8:45 AM:

    I'm sorry, but I hate articles like this. Chicago State gave a chance to a promising high school student of obtaining a four-year degree who had an abysmal ACT score who quite likely would not have been looked at twice by UIC as an entering freshman. Check UIC's profile of entering freshman and you will see the middle 50% have an ACT range of 24-29. Mr. Curiel's score of 18 clearly falls way short of the lower end of this range (the range for when he entered isn't provided), but he apparently did well enough at Chicago State to transfer to a better school. That makes him prudent. It does not make Chicago State a dropout factory. Rather, as I see it, Chicago State provided an opportunity to someone who otherwise may not have had one. And he should be thankful for that.

    BTW, I have no connection to Illinois.

  • Jada Boykin on August 24, 2010 9:56 AM:

    @JasonM

    ...but Morehouse is ranked #1 here. It is an Historically Black College that consistently does well and serves its students more than adequately. I'm not sure how you define 'lavish' resources, but most large state schools offer more amenities, majors and facilities than the majority of HBCUs.

    Also, what are the characteristics of an 'inner-city' African American? What does one's geographical location have to do with their level of intelligence or ability to manage projects and processes?

    Finally, why don't you take up your own cross and become the "investigative reporter" who asks the hard questions? Stop wishing and holding your breath. BE the change that you want to see.

  • Paul Camp on August 24, 2010 10:03 AM:

    Suggesting that funding should be tied to performance is a facile and superficial response. Other than that, good article.

    This suggestion suffers from the same problem as No Child Left Behind in K-12 -- it makes no sense to take the schools with the biggest problems and add to those problems by slashing their budgets. If the problem is a failure of management, how is budget reduction while leaving the same management in place going to solve it?

    It seems to me a better answer is a form of receivership -- seize control of the institution and spend MORE money on it, installing an academic turnaround specialist such as one of those you identified and replacing the board of trustees with competent overseers. Incompetent management is not going to make itself competent simply because you cut their budget.

  • John C. Thomas on August 24, 2010 12:00 PM:

    I have no idea where you get your data, but according to the US Department of Education's IPEDS database, East-West University has a 27% graduation rate, not 9%. And 27% is fairly high for a majority-minority school where more than 50% of the students are the first in their family to go to college.

    For comparison, UIC (the school that you laud in your article) has a 48% graduation rate.

  • SanePerson on August 24, 2010 12:36 PM:

    This article's data is useless... You can't say someone is a "dropout" if the transfer to another school. I transferred after my softmore year to go to a school that had a better program for the major I'd decided on. By this article's logic I'm a "dropout" from from that first school. Additionally, what about people who run out of money? College isn't public school. "Dropout" could simply mean poor, not necessarily badly educated by a poorly run institution. Again, this article's data is useless.

  • bigyaz on August 24, 2010 1:00 PM:

    saneperson: "I transferred after my softmore year..."

    Yes, do tell us more about the great education you received.

  • Ben Miller on August 24, 2010 2:55 PM:

    Hi there,

    I know a number of people raised concerns about Concordia College at Moorhead. All the graduation rate figures used in the article came from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which is hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We used only the graduate statistics for bachelor's degree students within six years (East-West University, for example offers degrees in addition to bachelor's). We did not consider students in non-bachelor's degree programs in either the numerator or denominator).

    The issue with Concordia's data is the wrong figure ended up in the IPEDS database. The data entered says it had 38 students earn a bachelor's degree within six years out of a total cohort of 727--which is about 5 percent. If you want to see the raw files yourself, I've posted the cohort file here Concorida College at Moorhead is row 712) and the number of completers here (Concordia College at Moorhead is row 698). I don't know how the wrong figure ended up in IPEDS--it is self reported so either Concordia entered the wrong figure or somehow numbers were transposed in the data entry process. But if you go into IPEDS now and download their bachelor's degree six-year graduation rate figure for 2008, it still gives you 5% as the rate.

    In terms of transfer students, I agree that is a weakness in the federal graduation rate data, but it's worth noting a few things. First, transfer rates are an optional number reported by schools, so the figures aren't consistent. Second, there is no guarantee that a transfer student ends up graduating elsewhere--only about 1/3 of transfer students get a bachelor's degree, so it isn't right to let schools off the hook because they couldn't hold on to their students. Third, we are talking about four-year institutions where the mission is not to produce transfer students (like say a community college), but to get them to graduate. It says something about the school when they have a large number of transfer students. Finally, I'd just point out that even if you took Chicago State's transfer students out, its graduation rate is still just 18 percent.

    I hope that answers some questions. If you have others, feel free to reach me on my e-mail address, which is bmiller [at] educationsector.org.

  • Kid with the Golden Arms on August 24, 2010 3:42 PM:

    Hi Ben,

    Are you using IPEDS to compute the actual graduation rates for all schools in this? If so, note that you have ranked Concordia College in Moorhead MN as #183 in 2010 Liberal Arts Colleges. In this table, the actual graduation rate is stated as 66%.

    Either way there is a mistake in your numbers: it can't be both 5% and 66%.

    Regards,

    KwGA

  • Hetfield is God on August 24, 2010 7:50 PM:

    Fantastic article! Really illuminated a side of higher education that you don't hear much about.

  • nygenxer on August 25, 2010 2:05 PM:

    In 1992, the new president of the University of Buffalo, William Greiner, said that UB was "primarily a research facility and anyone attending UB for an undergraduate education is wasting their time." He said this despite that UB is (or was) the flagship of the State University of New York system funded almost entirely by the tens of thousands of undergraduates in attendance. Greiner stayed president until 2003.

    That said, the banks love student loan debt. Although the debt is guaranteed by the government, they can charge outrageous fees and interest to a debt which cannot be forgiven by bankruptcy and is almost never discharged. There is no statute of limitations for murder, rape and student loans, and they will garnish your social security insurance if it comes to that.

    This has been a lost decade for all American workers. But unlike their unemployed blue collar brethren, unemployed college educated white collar workers are saddled with debt that never ever goes away. Take out a loan for a house and if you default, you lose the house. Default on student loans and congratulations: you are now an indentured servant with an open-ended contract.

    We passed the point at which a college education was no longer economically viable approximately ten years ago. Mathematically, it's been a losing game since then, and the lost Bush decade has only accelerated the gap.

    We are in a depression.

  • Concerned Citizen on August 25, 2010 6:59 PM:

    Nestor is a classic case of someone who probably should not have gone to college -- at least not with the expectation of getting any kind of degree that would get him ahead in his life. Financially, he would have been better off learning a trade. Plumbing, welding, machining, construction, etc. many of these fields pay well and for someone motivated to work hard for a better life for himself and his family, the money he saves by not handing it over to the shysters running these diploma mills could be put to work opening his own business.

    Even people with much higher test scores had a difficult time at my engineering college, a top 20 engineering school at a state university. About half dropped out or changed majors and of the 140 people who started in the freshman class, only about 35 made it through. Once out, about 25% of the class got the best jobs at the biggest companies that paid well, the rest took positions with companies servicing those companies in sales or other non-engineering related positions.

    As for myself, I quit my big company engineering job after three years and started a small computer company that stumbled along for five years until I started another company that was moderately successful.

    A very small amount of what I learned in college has been useful for my career, but mainly it's about hard work and luck that make the difference, not a college degree.

  • Hucbald on August 25, 2010 7:54 PM:

    I used to live in Alpine, Texas, which is where Sul Ross State is located, so I can tell you for a fact that its low graduation rate has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the education one receives there - which is excellent. Rather, the Big Bend area of Texas is gorgeous and a mecca for young people with an adventurous spirit: They go to Sul Ross for a couple of years to get their basics out of the way, and then they transfer to someplace like Texas State in San Marcos to finish up (Which has been known as, "The Party School" since the 70's!).

    I did something similar after I graduated from high school: I went to Texas A&M's Moody College of Marine Sciences in Galveston to do two years of academics while partying my butt off on the coast... and then I transferred to Berklee College of Music to finish up my BM. lol.

    Full Disclosure: I got my master of Music at Texas State.

  • Steve White on August 25, 2010 9:26 PM:

    As a Chicago area resident and a professor at a big university on the south side (not Chicago State), what Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly allude to but don't quite state is that, as usual, a failed institution (be it a university or any other endeavor) many times is attached to or is a consequence of failed politics.

    That's Chicago.

    CSU has been a dumping ground for decades for Chicago politics. It's run, by and large, by political hacks and fools. It's no wonder that relatively few students, faculty and staff with any choice at all would be there. Chicago machine politics dictates that CSU, the County Hospital, the Chicago Housing Authority, and so on, are cesspools of corruption. That the president of the institution was pillaging the budget isn't surprising in the least once you understand that Chicago State is a machine school. Failure for the 'little people' like Nestor in such institutions doesn't register with either the pols or the public.

    Another school on the dropout list, Northeastern Illinois University, has a similar history to Chicago State and similar problems with the Machine. It too has a horrific drop-out rate, and Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly could have easily found a Nestor there for their story.

    In contrast, University of Illinois at Chicago is run not by the city but by the state, and the Board of Trustees traditionally have been able to keep the city at arms' length. It has greater visibility with the public, and those two facts keep UIC from failing.

    If Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly were to examine the failed colleges on their list with the local politics, they very likely would discover (I hypothesize) a correlation.

    Whether one is progressive or conservative, correcting the problem of dropout colleges requires one to understand the connection between failed public institutions and corrupt politics. Be those politicians Democrats or Republicans, the problem won't be fixed until the public demands and attains accountability.

    Accountability? Chicago? Be serious.

  • rw on August 25, 2010 9:50 PM:

    As long as the student is getting money from grants and financial aid, why should the college care if and when the student graduates? A school like CS stays in business by admitting students that can not get accepted at more selective schools and then suck the money until the student transfers, graduates or drops out. The students who are really being hurt are those who are taking out loans. Those loans will come due and these students will not have employment following the time spent at CS. As long as CS is meeting its expenses, what reason would they have to change?

  • Evan on August 25, 2010 9:58 PM:

    I'll admit to being a bit surprised at seeing Sul Ross State University listed; the state university system it belongs to is generally better than that; Lawerence Sullivan Ross (the dedication on his statue on the Texas A&M main campus reads "Soldier, Statesman, and Knightly Gentleman") must be turning over in his grave to see his name associated with such behavior. I'm a bit more sanguine about Texas Southern, having grown up near Houston and being familiar with the area.

    I can definitely empathize with the young man who started at CSU, I also went for my undergraduate degree in Engineering with a mix of scholarship money, student job, and family money; fortunately, both of my parents were college graduates and they helped me evaluate the various schools (didn't hurt that the schools came after me as a National Merit Finalist) and I settled on one that even now, 37 years after I graduated with my BS in Engineering, I'm quite proud to have attended. I wish this young man all good luck with his situation, we most emphatically need more good engineers coming into the technical world.

    I do agree that much more attention needs to be paid as to how well colleges are actually serving their students, as opposed to the bureaucrats running them. As colleges become more like corporations, perhaps similar constraints and governance efforts need to be applied. For public colleges, there definitely needs to be, as in all forms of government, far more transparency for those footing the bill. Of course, how much of that would require state legislators to take more of an interest in something that's necessary but not usually glamorous?

  • BeenThereSeenThat on August 25, 2010 11:17 PM:

    I lived in the Chicago area for several years. Steve White's comment about political machine corruption dumping clouted hacks into city institutions is absolutely correct. The general phenomenon that the authors deal with is an important one, but Chicago State is a special case.

  • Offended on August 25, 2010 11:34 PM:

    "Even schools all around the country with student profiles as challenging as that of Chicago State—that is, schools with mostly African American and Latino students from low-income backgrounds—have overall graduation rates that are many times higher."

    "Challenging" hardly seems like an appropriate word choice without a better explanation of what, I'm sure, the authors intended to convey here.

  • DaniseIam on August 27, 2010 9:28 AM:

    Wow. The Multi-CULT-i social engineerskies really have to do everything that their imagination can concoct, to create the illusion that the melatonin-enriched prognathis throwbacks have achieved an education, and "graduated", thus "earning" their Affirmative Ack-shun gigs. Meanwhile - YT pays, but gets locked out of the institutions created by their forebears.

    Well - at least ole Nestor wanted to actually learn something.

  • Saint Augustine's College on August 27, 2010 10:52 AM:

    Saint Augustine's College is incorrectly listed in The Washington Monthly report, "2010 College Dropout Factories," as having an 8 percent graduation rate. This is a direct result of incorrect IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data submitted for the 2003 graduation cohort. As you will see in the link to our IPEDS data, the six-year graduation rate is 48 percent.

    http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=NC&pg=9&id=199582#retgrad

  • Visible School on August 28, 2010 11:14 AM:

    Visible School is also incorrectly listed. Visible School's overall graduation rate is 72% as reported on IPEDS Data Center. This is easily referenced by looking in the "Graduation Rates" section of our profile on IPEDS.

    The 8% graduation rate attributed to Visible School is wholly misleading. This graduation rate is for the 2002 cohort and includes the members of that cohort who had completed their bachelor degree by 2008. Our school was founded in 2000, and did not offer bachelor degrees until 2005. The 2002 cohort boasted a whopping graduation rate of 93% for the 1-year certificate, which was our only offering at that time. Three of those students, who had already graduated with the 1-year certificate, chose to come back and complete the bachelor degree in 2005, the first year of its offering. It is this dynamic which created the deceptive 8% graduation rate for the 2002 cohort. According to Ben Miller himself, they considered only four-year degree institutions. Visible Schools bachelors offering is a three-year degree program, thus skewing numbers further.

    Visible School is a small institution that is dedicated to doing college right: it has an unheard of 4:1 staff to student ratio, excellent academic advising, tutoring, and probation support services, and an integrated student development and academic plan which fully equips its students for success in college and beyond. Visible School is a reputable college, not only in Memphis but both nationally and internationally, giving its students a launch pad to pursue careers in the field of music and worship leadership with an incredible roster of successes - and, an article of this nature (or a report like this) can be detrimental to continued success. The fact that it is based upon inaccuracies warrants an immediate correction, which we have requested of the articles authors.

  • Daniel Kaplan on August 28, 2010 3:09 PM:

    BTW, I should make a correction of my own mistake. After reading the article and writing my comment, I called up my dad and he corrected me: Governor State was not the second problem school, but Northeastern Illinois was. My memory is not perfect. My apologies.

  • Susan on August 28, 2010 10:31 PM:

    To: Marquita
    Since I am actually the in Doctor of Education program at CSU, I believe I have a better understanding of the educational program. I would like to offer some illumination to the views which have been presented in this forum. Since it appears that your opinions (and you have a right to them) are strongly against the current educational institution (CSU) which you currently attend; perhaps you might want consider returning to the institution through which you received your undergraduate degree or attending another University. While you are at it, please get your facts correct regarding CSU's doctoral program. CSU offers the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership degree which is an Ed.D and not a Ph.D. The degrees are on the same level however the focus of each degree is different. The Ph.D. is usually geared toward those who wish to pursue research and instruct in higher education, whereas the Ed.D. is often considered the practitioner degree in the field of education, such persons often serve in educational leadership roles such as superintendents as well as policy analysis.

  • Maia on August 31, 2010 7:13 PM:

    I was a bit shocked, so i checked the UK unis, and yes, the lowest graduation rate is or appears to be 78.5%. A certain number on my course died or became extremely ill, failure was about 1-3%.

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=rjOlMfz31BnVzx0HcijtiBg&single=true&gid=0&output=html

  • Joyful on September 05, 2010 3:23 AM:

    What's the big deal about graduating, particularly graduating on time, in 4, 5, or 6 years? There's a great deal positive to be said for taking a semester or two of interesting courses, working for a year or two while taking a few night courses, and so on. People get a better idea of work they'd like to do from their studies, get a better idea of what they want to study from their work, and generally expand their minds and their options.

    Oh the horrors of failing to stay in lockstep with the ideal progress of the management trainee era, which is for good and for ill long behind us.

  • Sam on September 05, 2010 5:42 PM:

    Harvard's four year graduation rate is 97 percent. The overall rate of BA obtainment is almost certainly higher, and of course the drop-outs include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

    You might think that Harvard takes the figure for granted, but my experience has been that it doesn't. Harvard students are monitored closely. The list of people who are at some point responsible for monitoring the academic progress of students includes freshman advisers (almost all faculty, including star professors, serve as freshman advisers), freshman writing preceptors, a "dean of freshmen," three assistant deans of freshmen, "tutors" who live with students, a sophomore adviser, and then advisers assigned by the majors. As a senior, I still have three different people signing off on various decisions. 97% wouldn't be surviving the rigors if this weren't the case.

  • Bob Vila on September 06, 2010 9:50 PM:

    When a student earns a 3.6 GPA in high school and only manages an 18 on the SAT, one can conclude that his high school has very weak academic standards. And this is even more evident by the fact that he FAILED a math class at a university with a reasonable academic reputation. In the age of grade inflation, few people who make a serious effort outright fail a course.

    This is a classic case of a student being completely unprepared to handle the rigor of an engineering/math/science degree. I feel bad for this student, but am encouraged to see that he's being proactive about his education and is beginning to catch up academically. Moreover, he's learned an important life lesson about strength in the face of adversity and self-reliance in the midst of a poor support system. Those skills may prove to be more valuable than the ones he learns in the classroom at UIC. Good luck, Nestor.

  • FG on September 08, 2010 6:10 PM:

    Susan's comment worries me - if this is the quality of writing that a PhD or EdD a CSU candidate can muster, then that's a bad sign (and bodes poorly for CPS, which she is probably aiming for a Principalship in).

    It's a shame, since there have been some terrific professors at CSU and it has the potential to be an incubator but Chicago's corrupt culture seems (Nepotism isn't all bad, especially when it keeps potholes filled, streets plowed and garbage picked up) to be permeating the regions smaller public universities (it happens in big ten schools too and not just UIUC but IU as well).

  • rabbit on September 14, 2010 9:33 PM:

    Way to bring out the racist pigs, who find in the slightest mention of a Black or Latino person an excuse to go on an idiotic rant. And if you can't draw the line between JasonM's "black people can't run anything" to DaniseIam's schizoid mumblings, I have a mayor's office in the City of Big Shoulders to sell you. Thanks, Steve White, for helping us outthe corruption starts at the top.

  • BigVig209 on September 21, 2010 2:33 PM:

    I have hesitated to comment on this article initially, but one terrible and one small factual error require comment.

    The CSU Eng. Studies program is only a two-year program. The university has had articulation agreements with IIT and UIC since the program was founded in 1986. That Mr. Curiel transferred is no surprise, because he was supposed to transfer! And, as many underrepresented minorities studying in STEM fields have learned, with hard work and decent grades you may be able to earn scholarships aimed at addressing the lack of minorities in STEM fields.

    Hundreds of students have enrolled in the Eng. Studies program at CSU, studied for two years and transferred to IIT, UIC or another school. This is the fundamental heart of the program. You study for two years at CSU and finish at UIC or IIT. Every student entering the program knows that, to earn their bachelor degree in engineering, they must transfer to another school for their junior and senior years.

    Mr. Miller, Ms. Ly - did you even bother speaking with the staff of the Eng. Studies program? Because your article makes it appear as if you did not. Also, from your article, it does seem as if you may not have even been in Chicago when you interviewed Mr. Curiel.

    Your fact checking in this article seems sloppy. This is a fact of seemingly little importance, but a cursory search on google maps shows that CSU and UIC are only 12 miles apart in distance. This article is a textbook example of poor newsgathering, sloppy reporting and bad journalism. And it also shows how little thought or care on the part of the authors went into it.

  • Susan Goding on September 27, 2010 11:28 AM:

    This article reinforces the lessons of the Hopwood decision in Texas. Grade point average, even at a poor school, is a better predictor of success at University than SAT scores.

  • Anonymous on November 30, 2010 11:11 AM:

    I'll confirm what Susan Goding writes. The Engineering program at Chicago State is a prep program for other universities. By design, all students must transfer to complete their education. Thus 0% of the engineering students complete a Chicago State degree within six years - they didn't drop out, they transferred to better schools to finish!

    Mr. Miller and Ms. Ly should question their own educations. This seemed to be the type of article where the conclusion was pre-determined. The data/interviews were then selectively mined to support that conclusion.

  • Anonymous on November 30, 2010 11:12 AM:

    Sorry my previous post was in support of BigVig209's comment, not Susan Goding's comment

  • Kelvin Wing on February 24, 2011 2:42 AM:

    As the 2008 - 2010 Illinois Student Assistance Commissioner (ISAC)as well as a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education Advisory Committee (IBHE), I can tell you everyone in the state was acutely aware of the mass failure of Chicago State University. As many people would argue it is a city problem, I can unequivocally state it was more of a political problem. Many in the state wanted to close Chicago State and either build a new college or move people to a better school. The buildings are rundown, the teacher's union is entrenched, and there is a huge legacy policy of corruption there. Why wasn't it closed? Well lets just say it was the "darling" school of ex-senate President Emile Jones. Oh its 13% percent graduation rate really grated us at ISAC, cause we saw we were giving State aid grants (MAP) to a literal black hole of a college. Degrees from Chicago State were virtually worthless, as most employers would write off resumes with it on the forms. For those saying its a "city of Chicago" thing , just look at the very successful City Colleges of Chicago (CCC), there is actually some by Chicago State (Olive Harvey) that are very good at educating their students and are nearby. Chicago State actually has the old Chancellor Wayne Watson from CCC there to try to turn this university around. Now, without the patronage of its "senate supporter" Wayne, has a mandate to turn the university around. We're hoping it is successful, but we were ready to close that damn school and do right by its students. Chicago State has a damn magnifying class on it nowadays.

    If you guys want I tell you exactly what i know truthfully.

  • LilyB on December 14, 2011 2:53 AM:

    p>The assumption I think you are making is that colleges that accept at-risk students (which is code word for low-ability) are at risk of being considered college dropout factories. Therefore, these students don't belong in college; they are not college material, should be in votech, am I right?

    No matter how you slice the data (and you have very little evidence here in this article), you are making a value assumption that is more in line with classism than anything else. Upper class families wouldn't spend money to send their children to these colleges? What does that have to do with graduation rates? Nothing, as far as I can see. I think this is the kind of stupid, elitist media B.S. expected from the media mass mouth one would expect. Next!

  • J on December 29, 2011 10:13 AM:

    DO not take Mountain State University's online programs. Their graduation rate is lower than the articles state, and the Dean is a no show. Put me in charge and I'll Apex Think him right into the unemployment line! I graduated with all A's, somehow, and would never tolerate the lack of support too may of these people demonstrate...Not all, it can still be salvaged.

  • Steve on January 06, 2012 12:34 PM:

    This article does not tell the whole story about the university I work for-- University of Houston Downtown. Our "graduation rate" is computed for only those students who enroll full-time and have never enrolled in college before. Since 75% of our students transfer in from other institutions, there graduations don't count in the total. Of the remaining 25%, about half are enrolled part-time, not full-time, so their graduations don't count either. Needless to say, on graduation day, most of our graduates don't count in the total. The real story is more complicated, and doesn't make as provocative a headline.

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  • WallyG on November 07, 2012 12:00 PM:

    Where do they get the information from the graduation rates? What kind of fact checking do they do? Cause there is not in text citations or references to correspond to the proposed information. You seem very close to libel.

  • TheAnswers on November 07, 2012 1:10 PM:

    @WallyG. Graduation rates are publicly available at the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. In text citations or references are common only in academic publications, not in commercial magazines. The Washington Monthly uses standard magazine fact-checking procedures; all assertions have to be supported with documentation or interviews.

    It's not libel if the facts are accurate.