Only 55% of first-time, full-time students at private, nonprofit colleges and universities end up graduating within six years, according to a new report from Third Way.
The think tank used data from the Education Department's College Scorecard, and researchers found 761 of the 1,027 schools they looked at graduated less than 67% of their students within six years.
"There is a high number of institutions that are not only failing to graduate a large subset of their students but appear to be targeting Pell students and charging them a lot of money in the process," the report says.
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Researchers also found that roughly 25% of the students who did graduate from private institutions fell behind on their student loan payments within three years.
Schools need plans to raise their graduation rates, researchers say. Under federal law, high schools with equally low metrics are "considered a drop-out factory."
"A high school with a completion rate lower than 67% is considered a drop out factory under federal law, and those schools are required to intervene to turn their failures around," the report says.
The New York Times's "The Upshot" reports that if colleges were held to the same standard, 74% of private and 83% of public colleges and universities would be required to change as well. However, even a college with just a 2% graduation rate can maintain its accreditation.
Schools with lower graduation rates are generally the ones enrolling more underprepared and frequently lower-income students. Guiding this population through to graduation is more complicated.
In the K-12 system, lower income schools receive more money. Focusing resources on higher education institutions with high levels of low-income students may improve graduation rates.
"It's not that the low-income students are destined to fail," says Bob Shireman, senior fellow at the Century Foundation. "It's just that they have more challenges, so it takes a lot more resources to ensure that they succeed" (Bui, "The Upshot," New York Times, 6/1; Siemaszko, "College Game Plan," NBC News, 6/2).
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