I was reading in the Village Voice today about Governor Cuomo's "free" college tuition program. The Excelsior scholarships are filled with traps. Students must work in New York State for four years after graduation or their grant turns into a loan. In addition, pupils must graduate on time or they may owe the money back to the state.
From the Voice article:
Another provision demands that students maintain the minimum GPA required by their schools to remain in good academic standing, and that they graduate on time. Asked whether students will be responsible for repaying tuition from prior years if their GPA drops below the minimum, the governor's office said it would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The graduation requirement alone would make most students ineligible for Excelsior scholarships. On-time graduation rates at CUNY community colleges have remained consistently below 10 percent since at least 2005. The four-year graduation rate at SUNY schools is 48.9 percent according to the most recent data available, higher than the national average. The governor's office says the requirement is intended to incentivize on-time graduation: If finishing your degree on time means free college, the thinking goes, those rates will improve.
We understand that many community college students work and go part time to college so they need longer than two years to get a degree. Some would attend school full time and benefit from the Cuomo program. But no, most students do not drop out or take longer than two or four years to obtain a degree because they have to work to pay for college. Many do not finish because they are not prepared for higher education.
On time community college graduation rates under 10% do not surprise me in the least. Those numbers are not a knock on the community colleges who are maintaining some academic standards.
How far below 10% are the graduation rates at the CUNY community colleges?
Here is part of Susan Edelman's piece from 2015 in the NY Post:
Overall, just 4.1 percent of first-time enrollees at CUNY’s six community college students snag a diploma in two years, the latest available data show. About 16 percent graduate in three years, and 23.5 percent get a degree in four years, similar to peers nationwide. Many drop out.
Hostos Community College in the South Bronx posts the city’s lowest two-year graduation rate — a pathetic 1.4 percent.
Obviously, most of the students graduating from the Joel Klein, Cathy Black, Dennis Walcott and Carmen Farina New York City diploma mills, otherwise known as many of our high schools, are not ready for the next level. Pushing kids through high school, while expecting nothing of them, has consequences that show up in college statistics. Each one of those statistics is a person who was handed a high school diploma by the NYC Department of Education. What does that diploma mean in 2017?
Next time you see Mayor Bill de Blasio or Chancellor Farina touting some rise in the New York City high school graduation rate, just ask why there has been no corresponding increase in the community college graduation rate? If they answer that it's CUNY's fault and they call for mayoral control of CUNY, just run for the hills.
If the government politicizes college graduation, as they have with high schools, this society could be in real trouble.